Olympic champion Betty Cuthbert dies aged 79

Bring your umbrella today Melbourne- it's wet

Tributes have poured in for Australia's four-time Olympic gold medallist Betty Cuthbert, who has died aged 79.

But with cruel irony she would lose the power of her legs are contracting multiple schlerosis in 1969 before defying the illness for almost 50 years, albeit confined to a wheelchair.

During her career, she set world records at 60m, 100 yards, 200m, 220 yards and 440 yards, and remains the only Olympian to have won gold in all sprint events.

Raelene Boyle pushed Cuthbert's wheelchair during the opening ceremony at the 2000 Olympics, she's told the ABC, Cuthbert was a legend of the sport.

"Betty was tragically diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 1969 and she has battled the disease courageously".

Cuthbert remained strongly religious throughout her life, a quality to which she attributes her fortitude in the face of adversity.

Born in New South Wales in 1938, Cuthbert excelled in athletics as a teenager and broke the 200 world record in 1956.

"I realised from a very early age that God gave me a gift, and that gift was to run, and I wanted to use it to the best of my ability", she said.

"She was one of the best we've ever seen compete for Australia and she inspires athletes to this day when they put on the national uniform."

She passed away overnight Sunday at her home in Western Australia.

Cuthbert was the first Australian to be inducted into the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) Hall of Fame upon its creation in 2012 alongside Carl Lewis, Jesse Owens and others. Two years later, she focused on the 400 and won gold in that event at the 1964 Olympics.

"I'm so happy I got to meet such a tremendous and gracious role model, and Olympic Champion".

And 400m champion Cathy Freeman.

Swimmer Ian Thorpe is the only Australian to claim more Olympic gold medals, with five.

She won a fourth at the Tokyo Olympics eight years later after returning from retirement.

"Rest in peace Betty Cuthbert - an inspiration and a champion on and off the track", he wrote on Twitter.

"It was the only ideal race I have ever run", she later said of that victory.

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