Betty Cuthbert AC MBE

In 1956, Betty Cuthbert won three Olympic gold medals, the first Australian to do so.

Inducted:
2001
Category:
Honour Roll

Betty Cuthbert was born in Ermington, New South Wales, on 20 April, 1938. At primary school sport meetings Betty discovered she could win every event she tried. By coincidence, when she was 13, her schoolmistress at the Home Science School in Parramatta was June Ferguson who, in 1948, had represented Australia in the Olympic Games as a sprinter. Ferguson noticed the potential in young Betty and began coaching her.

In 1953, Betty unofficially broke the Australian junior 100 yard record with a run of 11.3 seconds. She joined the Western Suburbs Athletics Club in Sydney when she left school and in September 1956 broke the world record time for 200 metres with 23.2 seconds.

She was chosen to run in the 100 metre and 200 metre events at the Melbourne Olympic Games. Betty set a world record for 100 metres of 11.4 seconds in her first heat. She went on to win the event with a run of 11.5 seconds, winning Australia's first Olympic gold medal on Australian soil. The next event was her favourite, the 200 metre and she won her heats easily. In the final, however, Germany's Christa Stubnick edged ahead of her. Betty lengthened and quickened her stride, caught up to her and overtook her to win by two metres, equalling Marjorie Jackson's world Olympic record time of 23.4 seconds.

When the baton was passed to Betty in the final leg of the 4x100 metre relay the Australians held a narrow lead, but Betty was exhausted from having run eight races already that week. She held on gallantly to win in the record time of 44.5 seconds. It was the first time Australia had won this event.

With her flaxen hair and swag of gold medals, she was dubbed the 'golden girl'. She won the 1956 ABC Sportsman (sic) of the Year. Betty had injury problems at the 1960 Rome Olympics and was unable to win a medal. She announced her retirement shortly afterwards, but was lured back to the track for the 1962 Empire Games in Perth. Though unsuccessful in the individual events she helped her team win the relay.

Following these Games, she switched to middle distance running and qualified for the Tokyo Olympics in the 400 metre event. Her stunning performance to win gold in an Olympic record time of 52 seconds capped off her brilliant career. In 1978, she became the first female trustee of the Sydney Cricket Ground.

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