Bronze tribute, golden spirit
NOT for the first time, Betty Cuthbert's jaw dropped at the MCG yesterday.
The original Golden Girl of Australian sport was moved to tears when she saw the new statue of her at the stadium where she won three sprinting gold medals at the 1956 Olympic Games.
She cried after the Premier, Steve Bracks, helped her to unveil sculptor Louis Laumen's magnificent bronze depiction of her in full flight as she hits the tape at the finish of the 100m — her mouth wide open.
"I don't know why, but I always ran with my mouth open," Cuthbert said.
"In fact, it threw my jawbones out slightly and they still click when I open and close my mouth."
So Laumen got that right. In fact, he got everything right.
The guest list, which included many eminent Olympic athletes and officials, was unanimous that the statue, now standing near gate six and light tower two, is a striking work of art.
And Cuthbert, who described it publicly as "absolutely beautiful," later confided that she was equally impressed by Laumen's technical accuracy.
She said he had captured her sprinting technique of driving off her back leg, and the relaxed manner she adopted.
"It is perfect — there is nothing I would change about it," she said.
The Melbourne Cricket Club has commissioned Laumen to produce 10 statues for a Parade of Champions, all of which will be in place by the time the stadium redevelopment is completed for the Commonwealth Games in 2006.
Cuthbert is the second to be
■ with RON REED
unveiled after Australia's greatest cricketer, the late Sir Donald Bradman.
Football legend Ron Barassi will be unveiled next month, with cricketer Keith Miller to follow.
Footballers Haydn Bunton, Dick Reynolds and Leigh Matthews; cricketers Dennis Lillee and Bill Ponsford and sprinter Shirley Strickland-de la Hunty will be the others to line the parade.
De la Hunty, a triple gold medallist herself and a contemporary of Cuthbert, wasn't at the unveiling, but will be at the MCG today for another function leading into the stadium's 150th birthday celebrations next month.
The two women — who both live in Western Australia — will watch today's AFL blockbuster between the Brisbane Lions and Collingwood together.
However, it is fair to suggest that even though they won gold together in a relay, they are not close friends.
To pick up on that, you only had to listen closely to well-known Olympic identity Julius "Judy" Patching's tribute speech to Cuthbert yesterday.
Patching was the official starter at the Melbourne Games and, later, a team official at Cuthbert's other two Olympics, and has always been a close friend and mentor.
Art and soul: Betty Cuthbert sheds a tear after her statue is unveiled at the MCG yesterday. Cuthbert said sculptor Louis Laumen got everything right, down to her open mouth. Picture: BILL McAULEY
He reminded guests that Cuthbert had donated her medals and memorabilia to the MCG's Olympic museum, where they could be appreciated by the public.
Others, he said, naming nobody, had "flogged" theirs, which was "quite contrary to the spirit and success of this girl."
De la Hunty sold all her memorabilia last year, with the unidentified buyers giving it to the MCG.
Cuthbert, who has long used a wheelchair because she suffers from multiple sclerosis, came close to death when she
suffered a stroke about 18 months ago, and has endured another trauma with a con-man swindling her and her carer and friend, Rhonda Gilham, out of much of their savings.
"Even when she was robbed, Betty wouldn't sell her medals to pay her debts," Mrs Gilham said yesterday.
Be that as it may, the good news is that the museum, which closed yesterday for the duration of the redevelopment, now has both sets.
So posterity is the winner. firstname.lastname@example.org
WITH one year to go until the start of the Athens Olympics, Australian fans can now apply for tickets for all sports.
The ticket brochure is available from Sydney-based company Sportsworld Pacific.
"We have been delighted by the level of initial interest in travelling to Athens and are confident, thanks to our guaranteed ticket allocation, we will be able to meet most people's requests for specific tickets," Sportsworld general manager Anne Meacham said.
Australia's golden girl
delighted to get a bronze
Betty Cuthbert shows her delight with the statue of her in full flight and with mouth agape. picture: michael rayner Games in 2006.
Four-time Australian Olympic gold medallist Betty Cuthbert wept yesterday as a statue depicting her in full flight was unveiled outside the MCG.
The 2.75-metre bronze work by sculptor Louis Laumen shows her in full stride in her 1956 Melbourne Olympics victory in the 100 metres.
Ms Cuthbert, 65, flew from her home outside Perth for the ceremony. "I think (the honour) is absolutely marvellous," she said. "It's exactly like I was ... I always ran with my mouth wide open."
Australia's Golden Girl won three gold medals in Melbourne and staged a remarkable comeback eight years later, winning at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics.
Her medals reside in the MCG's Australian Gallery of Sport and Olympic Museum.
Now suffering multiple sclerosis and confined to a wheelchair, Ms Cuthbert is well known as a campaigner for funding and education on the debilitating illness.
The ceremony was attended by members of the Australian Olympic Committee and Premier Steve Bracks.
Veteran Australian Olympic official Judy Patching, who fired the starting gun for Ms Cuth-bert's three Melbourne events, described his close friend as "a great athlete, but modest to the point of being humble, and she's proven to be an even greater person".
Ms Cuthbert's statue joins one of cricket legend Donald Bradman. They are the first of 10 statues of MCG sporting heroes commissioned by Tattersalls to comprise a Parade of Champions.
Statues of footballer Ron Barassi and cricketer Keith "Nugget" Miller will be unveiled in coming months, with all 10 statues due to be finished by the start of the Commonwealth Games.
"Herald-Sun" 9 / 8 / 2003Golden turns bronzed
By TANYA GILES
AUSTRALIA'S golden girl, Betty Cuthbert, sobbed as a statue honouring her achievements was unveiled at the MCG yesterday.
The bronze statue captures Cuthbert in full stride as she raced to victory in the 100m at the 1956 Melbourne Olympic Games.
"I think it's absolutely marvellous. It's exactly like I was ... running with my mouth wide open," Cuthbert said, with tears in her eyes.
Cuthbert won three of her Olympic gold medals at the MCG for the 100m, the 200m and the 100m relay. She fought off a foot injury to win her fourth gold in the inaugural 400m women's race in Toyko eight years later.
Cuthbert, 65, who lives in Perth, said she was blessed with an ability to run. "A gift to run... was given to me by God and I had to use it to the best of my ability," she said.
Cuthbert, who has battled multiple sclerosis and almost died after a brain hemorrhage last year, said she hoped her life would encourage young Australians to pursue their dreams.
"If they take on any sport, or anything they really believe in, stick to it, no matter what happens, because you do get setbacks. Stick to it and it will happen for you," she said.
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Golden girl: Betty Cuthbert yesterday. Picture: BILL McAULEY