SWIM:Tributes flow for Murray Rose
By Liam FitzGibbon
SYDNEY, April 15 AAP – Murray Rose was being hailed as one the greatest swimmers of all time and an Australian Olympic legend following his death on Sunday after a battle with leukaemia.
The four-time Olympic gold medallist died in Sydney on Sunday morning, aged 73, having been ill for several months and his passing was met with by a flood of tributes from the wider Australian sporting community.
Rose emerged as a national hero after winning three gold medals at the 1956 Olympics – in the 4×200m freestyle relay, the 400m freestyle and the 1500m freestyle – all at the age of 17.
He followed up in 1960 in Rome, retaining his 400m freestyle crown and winning a silver medal behind fellow Australian John Konrads in the 1500m.
Konrads led the tributes on Sunday, saying Rose’s achievements in the amateur era meant he should be considered among the sport’s greatest athletes.
“Murray Rose was certainly one of the greatest of all time,” Konrads told AAP.
“There’s Mark Spitz in the sprints and so on and now Michael Phelps, but they’re short distance swimmers in the professional era.
“I think, taking into consideration the amateur era, Murray was the greatest of all time.”
Konrads said the pair had been rivals until forming a long-standing friendship at the Rome Games.
Rose did not compete at the 1964 Tokyo Games as he was not allowed to compete in trials in the US where he was studying and Konrads believed he would have captured another gold medal in the 1500m in Japan had he competed.
Kieren Perkins, a two-time Olympic 1500m gold medallist, described Rose’s passing as “absolutely devastating”, saying he was “a true gentleman” and pioneer for Australian distance swimmers.
“Murray was one of those statesmen of Australian sport and it’s almost beyond describing, the impact that he had not only on swimming but Australian sport in general,” Perkins told AAP.
“I was fortunate enough to interact with him before the 1992 (Barcelona) Olympics and he gave me valuable advice that helped me achieve what I did at those Games.
“I think for anybody that’s been involved in distance swimming, the legend and the tradition that Murray Rose created I think really set the scene for decades.”
Dawn Fraser, acclaimed as a National Treasure for her swimming feats, said Rose was a great ambassador for his sport and country.
“He set a number of records and he also did a lot of work outside for Australian swimming and masters swimming,” Fraser told ABC24.
Swimming and Olympic officials also paid tribute to Rose, who came to Australia as an infant from England, while a host of current and former swimmers took to Twitter to express their feelings.
“True Australian swimming legend. My thoughts are with you and your family,” butterfly veteran Geoff Huegill wrote.
In a joint statement released on Sunday night, Prime Minister Julia Gillard and Sports Minister Kate Lundy said Australia had lost one of its greatest Olympians.
“Murray was a true pioneer of Australian swimming and his impressive feats in the pool helped to shape Australia’s destiny as a successful sporting nation.
“Murray will be remembered fondly as a sporting legend who inspired the next generations of elite athletes and helped to propel Australia’s sporting success in future Olympics.
“There is no disputing that the Olympian was a champion in the pool, but Murray also made an immense contribution to the community through charity work and as patron of the The Rainbow Club which teaches children with a disability to swim.”
Rose’s final swim for Australia came at the Perth Commonwealth Games in 1962 when he won all his four events.
He was one of eight Olympic flag-bearers at the opening ceremony of the 2000 Sydney Games and appeared with other Olympic greats such as Fraser, Betty Cuthbert and Shirley Strickland on postage stamps to commemorate the Games.
Rose is survived by his wife Jodi and son Trevor.
16 Apr 10:08 AM