Betty Cuthbert - Australia - Three Olympic golds in 1956 and a fourth in '64

Photo/Foto: E. D. Lacey (1922-1976)

Date: 01 October 1964

Click on image to enlarge

      Wednesday, 20 April 1938
      Merrylands, nr. Sydney, Australia
  • Australia

Betty CUTHBERT - Australia - Three Olympic golds in 1956 and a fourth in '64

The home crowd in every city which hosts the Olympic Games always adopts its own hero or heroine. In the case of Melbourne, in 1956, the heroine was 18 year-old Betty Cuthbert, who won three gold medals, and was thenceforth dubbed 'The Golden Girl'. Although an outstanding schoolgirl athlete, Cuthbert wasn't seriously considered as an Olympic gold medal contender until she surprisingly broke the 200m world record at Sydney on 16 September 1956, setting a new mark of 23.2sec. Betty carried this form into the Olympics, easily winning both the 100m in 11.5sec and the 200m in 23.4sec. She then anchored the Australian team to victory in the 4 x 100m relay, setting a new world record of 44.5sec. The following years were difficult for Betty, not the least due to public expectation. At the 1958 Commonwealth Games in Cardiff, Betty finished fourth in the 100yd won by compatriot Marlene Willard, and then won the silver medal behind Willard in the 220yd. Cuthbert ran the first leg of the 4 x 110yd relay, in which Willard anchored Australia home to a silver medal behind England. Cuthbert had a disappointing time at the 1960 Rome Olympics, where, carrying an injury, she was eliminated in the second round of the 100m, and then withdrew from the 200m. At the 1962 Commonwealth Games in Perth, Cuthbert was eliminated in the semi-finals of the 100yd and finished fifth in the final of the 220yd. However, she won another gold medal when she anchored the Australian 4 x 110yd relay team to a narrow win over England. Cuthbert then decided to move up to the 400m, and at the 1964 Olympic Games in Tokyo, she comfortably eased through her semi-final (see photo above, no. 12) before winning the gold medal from Great Britain's Ann Packer in the final itself. After the disappointments of the previous few years it must rank as one of the sports greatest comebacks. (Ron Casey)