Betty Cuthbert remembered at Mandurah funeral | photos

So sure was Betty Cuthbert of not making the 1956 Australian Olympic team, she bought tickets to the event so she could at least go and watch.

By the time the Olympic flame had finished burning in Melbourne that year, the country had a new golden girl.

History had been made.

During a memorial service in Mandurah on Wednesday, mourners remembered Betty not just for her sporting prowess, but for her humility, her love of God, and her loyal friendship.

Sporting legends Dawn Fraser, Margaret Court and Raelene Boyle paid their respects among other track and field athletes past and present.

Bruce McAvaney spoke of Betty’s legendary status in the sporting arena, and there was not a dry eye in the house when Betty’s church pastor, Phil Ayres, recalled his former parishioner’s journey of faith.

But it was Betty’s long-time friend and carer Rhonda Gillam who, in reading a poem written by our very own sporting superstar years ago, brought home what running really meant to the four-time Olympic gold medallist.

Golden girl: Betty Cuthbert in action during a race in Sydney on December 7, 1957. Photo: R L STEWART

Golden girl: Betty Cuthbert in action during a race in Sydney on December 7, 1957. Photo: R L STEWART

Betty felt free when she ran. With her signature style of high knees and mouth open wide, images of Betty sprinting to victory peppered the service.

There was no disputing her sprint success. She was the best. What she wan’t known for though, was her long-distance running.

But that is exactly how her subsequent battle with MS was described; as an ultra marathon.

For years Betty ran a race of a different kind as she slowly lost the ability to move as she used to and, ultimately, the ability to walk.

She never complained about her crushing diagnosis, and remained a champion to her dying day.

Hundreds turned out to remember their hero.

One woman caught the train from Perth to pay her respects.

Before the service, while looking closely at a file photo of Betty winning gold in Melbourne, the woman said she was trying to spot herself in the crowd.

“You were there?” she was asked.

“Oh, yes. I’ll never forget it,” she said. “The roar of the crowd when Betty finished first; it gave me goosebumps.

“It still does.”

Australia’s Golden Girl

Betty Cuthbert made her Olympic debut at the 1956 Melbourne Games where she set a world record in the 200 metres.

Cuthbert remains the only Olympian to have won a gold medal in all sprint events, being the 100, 200 and 400 metres.

She moved away from the eastern states in 1991, settling in Mandurah.

Her death earlier this month prompted an outpouring of emotion and tributes.

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