By Tom Degun

Murray Rose_1April 16 - Murray Rose, the Australian swimming icon who won four Olympic gold medals in a glittering career, has died aged 73 in Sydney following a battle with leukaemia.

Rose (pictured) was born in Nairn, Scotland, in 1939 and moved with his family moved to Australia soon after World War Two when still a child.

It was in Australia that his huge talent for swimming was discovered and he soon emerged as a national hero when he claimed three gold medals at the Melbourne 1956 Olympics aged just 17.

He won the 4x200 metres freestyle relay, the 400m freestyle and the 1,500m freestyle in front of an exultant home crowd.

He followed up at the Rome 1960 Olympics by retaining his 400m freestyle crown, claiming a silver medal behind fellow Australian John Konrads in the 1,500m and taking a bronze in the 4x200m freestyle relay.

Rose did not compete at the Tokyo 1964 Olympics as he was not allowed to participate in the trials in the United States where he was studying, but many believe he would have captured a third gold medal in the 1500m in Japan had he taken part.

Murray Rose_2
Konrads (pictured on right with Rose in centre) led the tributes to Rose, insisting he should be considered among the sport's greatest athletes.

"Murray Rose was certainly one of the greatest of all time," said Konrads, a former rival and long-time friend of Rose.

"There's Mark Spitz in the sprints 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."

Kieren Perkins, Australia's two-times Olympic 1500m gold medallist who is considered one of the best-ever long-distance swimmers, described Rose's passing as "absolutely devastating" for the sport.

"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," said Perkins.

"I was fortunate enough to interact with him before the 1992 Olympics and he gave me valuable advice that helped me achieve what I did at those Games.

"I think for anybody who's been involved in distance swimming, the legend and the tradition that Murray Rose created really set the scene for decades."

Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard and Sports Minister Kate Lundy also paid tribute to Rose, saying that the country had lost one of its greatest ever Olympians and hailed the work he did for charity.

"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," said Gillard and Lundy in a joint statement.

"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 Rainbow Club, which teaches children with a disability to swim."

Rose was one of eight Olympic flag-bearers at the Opening Ceremony of Sydney 2000 and he appeared on a special postage stamp to commemorate the Games.

Rose is survived by his wife, Jodi, and son, Trevor.

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