Vale Betty Cuthbert: ‘I felt free when I ran’

Betty Cuthbert has died at the age of 79 after a long battle with MS.

She was a much-loved figure in Australian life.

She was an athlete. She won the 100m and 200m double at the Melbourne Olympics, and was part of the 4 x 100m relay team which also won the gold medal. She returned to win the 400m gold medal in Tokyo.

Athletics, although not as prominent now, was for generations a part of growing up. At school, at Little Athletics and at Sunday School picnics and other festivals, running as fast as you can has been a joy for many. Running is such a part of so many sports. So Betty Cuthbert – along with Marjorie Jackson, Shirley Strickland and Marlene Matthews – was an idol to those who competed in athletics, and to Australians generally.

She was such a figure of that time – and remained a public figure. Who will forget those moments at the Sydney Olympic Games?

When we were looking for an epigraph for The Women’s Footy Almanac 2017 we wanted something which captured the moment – the birth of the national AFL Women’s competition. We looked at many quotes.

But one stood out for me:


I think it speaks for itself.

Our condolences to all those close to Betty. Vale Betty Cuthbert.


If you are interested in reading more about The Women’s Footy Almanac 2017 CLICK HERE.

About John Harms

JTH is a writer, publisher, speaker, historian. He is publisher and contributing editor of The Footy Almanac and He has written columns and features for numerous publications. His books include Confessions of a Thirteenth Man, Memoirs of a Mug Punter, Loose Men Everywhere, Play On, The Pearl: Steve Renouf's Story and Life As I Know It (with Michelle Payne). He appears on ABCTV's Offsiders. He can be contacted [email protected] He is married to The Handicapper and has three kids - Theo13, Anna11, Evie10. He might not be the worst putter in the world but he's in the worst three. His ambition is to lunch for Australia.


  1. bob.speechley says

    I was at The Olympic Games in Melbourne in 1956 working as a “Drinks, Lollies, Peanuts vendor but I spent most of the time watching the athletics. Day One was memorable with ” Chilla” Porter leaping to great heights but Betty Cuthbert stood out with her splendid Gold Medal performances in the 100m and 200m events. She has remained a popular focus for me ever since.

    Another memory that remains is of Frenchman Alain Mimoun entering the MCG at the conclusion of the Marathon but overall Betty Cuthbert takes pride of place in my mind.

  2. A great athlete in her prime; and never a hint of bitterness at the misfortunes of her later life. Moving from the sprints in 1956 to the 400 meters in Tokyo in 1964 (the first time it was run for women) showed a smarts and toughness beyond her pure talent. Dignified and proud to the end. Vale’ Betty.
    For my generation of Australians “the Golden Girls” will always be Cuthbert; Jackson; Strickland and Matthews – not an American sit-com.

  3. Yvette Wroby says

    I loved that we used her quote, it was brilliant and she will always be in our minds.

  4. Peter Fuller says

    My memories are no closer to the event than radio broadcasts and the memorable colour photos in the Argus (in its death throes at the time, as it lasted less than two months beyond the Melbourne Games). She and Peter B’s Golden Girls were an inspiration to many (most?) of my generation of sports-mad kids. I was astonished to read in one of this morning’s obituaries that her affliction with MS came so early when she was just thirty years old. It’s a cruel disease, and seems more so for some-one who is forever in our hearts for her speed of movement and physical grace.
    Lucky you, Bob S.!

  5. Neil Anderson says

    On a family trip to Sydney in 1964 I can’t remember the suburb where we stayed with friends. But I can remember being taken past the house in Ermington where Betty Cuthbert grew up. It was the first place our proud Sydney-sider friends wanted to show us out of all the attractions in Sydney.

  6. Superb JTH. Simple and superb. There is an argument that the 1956 Games were the birth of a nation. Perhaps more so than Gallipoli, because in 1956 we watched the whole country emerge. Jackson was part of that.

  7. Sorry – Cuthbert was part of that. As were the others in that extraordinary group

  8. Pamela Shetpa says

    What a fabulous ,inspirational athlete and human being Betty was , and always will be… Her values and achievements made a significant contribution to our proud sporting history.

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