Murray Rose. Picture: The West Australian
Murray Rose. Picture: The West Australian

Australian swimming legend and four-time Olympic gold medallist Murray Rose has died at the age of 73 after a battle with leukaemia.

Rose, who won three gold medals at the 1956 Olympics in Melbourne, died in Sydney on Sunday morning and had been ill for several months.

Swimming Australia confirmed Rose’s passing while fellow Australian swimming great John Konrads said he and other former swimmers had been informed of Rose’s death.

“I’m just extremely sad at the passing of one of the greatest swimmers of all time and a great mate,” Konrads told AAP.

Rose, like Betty Cuthbert, emerged from the 1956 Games as a national hero.

Born in Birmingham, England, Rose came to Australia as an infant and started swimming in Sydney aged five.

He was 17 when he became an Olympic champion, winning the first of his three 1956 gold medals in the final of the 4 x 200m freestyle relay.

He followed with victories in the 400m freestyle and 1500m freestyle, becoming the first swimmer in 36 years to win both individual events.

After the Games, Rose moved to Los Angeles and attended the University of Southern California.

He returned to Australia to train for the 1960 Rome Olympics, where he won the 400m freestyle and finished second to Konrads in the 1500m.

He was the only swimmer to have won the 400m freestyle twice in a row; an honour now shared with Ian Thorpe (2000-2004).

Widely regarded as one of the sport’s great distance swimmers, Rose was one of eight flag-bearers of the Olympic flag at the Sydney 2000 Olympics.

Tributes were flowing for Rose on Sunday night.

Swimming Australia president David Urquhart said his passing is a great loss for the sport.

“The name Murray Rose is synonymous with success in the sport of swimming, and his achievements in Melbourne in 1956 will go down as the stuff of legend,” Urquhart said.

“Murray Rose is part of the Swimming DNA in this country. His success inspired a generation and our thoughts and prayers are with his family and close friends during this difficult time.”

Among the current and former swimmers to pay tribute was butterfly veteran Geoff Huegill, who said on Twitter: “Sad to hear about Murray Rose. True Australian swimming legend. My thoughts are with you and your family.”

The West Australian

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