'Golden Girl' Betty Cuthbert will provide a silver lining for Australia's team bound for Glasgow for the Commonwealth Games in July.

The Weekend West
can reveal that a unique memorabilia piece built around a Cuthbert feat regarded as one of the mightiest performances in Australian athletic history is expected to raise at least $40,000 at auction to help fund the Games bid.

The framed piece marks her dramatic come-from-behind win when anchoring Australia's 4x110 yards relay at the 1962 Perth Empire Games and features a piece of original timber from Perry Lakes Stadium, where the event was held.

Ms Cuthbert's carer of the past 23 years and best friend Rhonda Gillam said the sprinting legend, who remains adamant she will walk again despite being wheelchair-bound since 1991, coveted the race as the springboard for her successful return from retirement, which culminated in one last Olympic gold in the 400m in Tokyo in 1964.

"She was audibly told to make a comeback by God and when she saw that run, she knew it was very, very special . . . something powerful was pushing her," Mrs Gillam said.

Ms Cuthbert is arguably the most internationally famous person living in the State and WA Olympic Council executive director Jeff Healy said her Empire Games win was considered true folklore among the nation's athletes. He said she had never stopped giving to the nation's athletics movement.

"Betty Cuthbert is among the greatest athletes the country has ever produced," Mr Healy said.

"And it is one of the greatest races that an Australian has ever competed in. Whenever you show that footage, the entire room just erupts, cheering for Betty as she grabs that baton on the last straight."

Despite recently losing her hearing as part of her battle with multiple sclerosis since 1969, the 76-year-old is convinced she will soon be healed by God and will walk again. "Of course, yeah" Ms Cuthbert said nonchalantly when asked if God will help her walk again. "He's always with me, I love him."

Having been written off after her retirement following the 1960 Rome Olympics, she returned to the 1964 Tokyo Games to win gold.

When she suffered a serious brain haemorrhage in 2002, doctors told her family she would be a vegetable if she ever left hospital.

At her aged-care home in Mandurah this week, Ms Cuthbert was bright and bubbly - albeit frustrated by her deafness.

Always running with her mouth wide open and pumping her legs with her distinctive high knee lift, she became an Australian icon and her statue stands proudly among the Parade of Champions at the MCG, where she won three Olympic gold medals as an 18-year-old in 1956.

And her relationship with Mrs Gillam, which seems bizarre to some, is to them simply a result of the faith they committed to in 1985, before they had met.

Five years ago on May 23, Ms Cuthbert moved into her Mandurah aged care home. It was the same date in 1991 that Mrs Gillam started her full-time carer role.

Ms Cuthbert was confined to her wheelchair on November 24 that year, the same date in 2012 when she was inducted into the International Association of Athletics Federations Hall of Fame in Barcelona.

Mrs Gillam's granddaughter shares the same birthday as Ms Cuthbert and she also has twin great-granddaughters who came within hours of the same date.

The coincidences have strengthened their friendship. "Betty knows that she's loved in Australia but the MS has taken her hearing out now," Mrs Gillam said.

"She's in a world of her own and she's not thinking of time and not worrying. She's just got this amazing belief and that's it."

The auction for the Cuthbert piece will be held at The Farewell Luncheon for the 2014 Australian Commonwealth Games team at the Perth Convention and Exhibition Centre on June 27.

The West Australian

Popular videos

Compare & Save

Our Picks

Compare & Save

Follow Us

More from The West