Cuthbert, Mathews statues unveiled in Sydney
3 January 2018
ATHLETICS: IAAF President, Lord Sebastian Coe has unveiled two bronze sculptures of Betty Cuthbert and Marlene Mathews in a special ceremony at the Sydney Cricket Ground (SCG) precinct today.
Betty Cuthbert and Marlene Mathews set 11 world records at the former Sydney Sports Ground, and their remarkable achievement sees them as the first female athletes to be added to the bronze sculptures within the SCG precinct.
“It’s just feels so surreal,” said Mathews at the unveiling.
“I just cannot believe that this is happening to me and to Betty – both of us. We were together for so long. I feel so humble and I feel so honoured and I thank the Sydney Cricket Ground Trust so much for honouring both of us in this manner.
“Betty and I spent so many years running on this Sydney Sports Ground in interclub competition, state championships, and national championships and I think it was because Betty and I were able to race against each other that made us, I don’t want to sound immodest, that made us as good I suppose as we were.
"We raced there week after week on what was known as the fastest grass track in the world. There were many world records set on that ground. Hec Hogan ran his 100 yards record on that ground. Betty ran her world records on this ground and I was fortunate enough to run my world records on this ground in 1958.
“It is an occasion tinged with sadness because Betty’s not here to share it with us, but I’m sure Betty that you’re up there. I know you, and you will be up there making sure that everything goes right.”
Lord Coe said that Cuthbert and Mathews had left an incredible legacy across the entire sport of athletics.
“I don’t think anybody here is going to argue with me, without our history, sport is pretty meaningless,” he said.
“We need to be able to benchmark; we need a framework of reference and the two athletes that we’re celebrating here today… are in any generation, the best of the best. And they did something else that was crucial.
"Their head-to-heads brought crowds to the stadiums and that is what we need to do today. We need to excite a young generation of athletics enthusiasts to understand that what they’re watching out there is extraordinary.
“These two athletes brought the crowds back. They were the dominant feature in athletics in the 50s and the 60s and I’ve often said that the history of athletics in Australia is our history. It’s the history that has shaped and formed so many young athletes.
"I know from speaking to Raelene [Boyle], I know from speaking to Debbie [Flintoff-King] that the impact that Marlene and Betty had on their own careers was profound.”
The sculptures were donated by SCG Trust Chairman, Tony Shepherd and trustees Alan Jones, Rod McGeoch, and Katie Page.
Mr Shepherd spoke on behalf of his fellow benefactors and the SCG Trust at the unveiling.
“It is quite fitting that the sculptures have captured both Betty and Marlene in action, side-by-side, where they finished in so many contests,” Mr Shepherd said.
“You can really see their determination; Betty’s famous running style, and Marlene’s determination to never be beaten without a fight.
“I think sculptor Cathy Weiszmann captured the grace, speed and athletic brilliance of these two great Australians perfectly.”
Betty Cuthbert represented Australia at three Olympic Games and two British Empire Games. She remains the only athlete to win the women’s 100 metres, 200 metres, and 400 metres at the Olympic Games. Cuthbert set six world records at the former Sydney Sports Ground within the SCG precinct.
Marlene Mathews represented Australia from 1950 to 1961 and competed at two Olympic Games, two British Empire Games (Commonwealth Games), and a Centenary Games. Marlene set five world records at the former Sydney Sports Ground within the SCG precinct
The Trust was able to advise Ms Cuthbert of its desire to commission a sculpture in her honour, prior to her passing in August 2017. Ms Cuthbert was said to be excited about the project.
Marlene Mathews attended several design sessions in the studio, together with Betty Cuthbert’s twin-sister, Marie Johnston. They were both delighted with the final casting.