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Sports greats mourn 'peerless' Rose

23 April 2012

He became known as "the seaweed streak" but mourners at a memorial service for Murray Rose heard he was making waves long before becoming a legend in the pool.

The Olympic great was remembered on Monday as the best swimmer of his generation and the embodiment of the Olympic movement.

Fellow Olympians John Konrads and Dawn Fraser were among hundreds who gathered at St Stephen's Uniting Church to remember the four-time gold medallist, eight days after his death from leukaemia at the age of 73.

Rose, who burst onto the world stage at the 1956 Olympics as a 17-year-old, was precocious, full of life and a natural in the water from the very beginning, one-time teammate Fraser said.

"Before celebrity became code for promotion, Murray was a national hero," Fraser told the gathering.

"(But he was) making waves in and around the Red Leaf pool before his first birthday.

"By the age of five, he was spotted dog-paddling by coach Sam Herford, who happened to mention to his parents that they had a champion on their hands."

Fraser remembered Rose as a true gentleman, whose vegetarianism earned him the nickname of the "seaweed streak".

"It was always great to sit next to him in the dining room where you could swap your veggies for his meat," she joked.

She told the crowd she had lost "a true friend" who remained humble despite his fame as a swimmer and his brief film career.

Australian Olympic Committee President John Coates said Rose would go down in record books as "simply peerless, the finest swimmer throughout his era".

Yet the records could never capture Rose the man.

"Throughout his career and life, through his generosity of spirit, his sense of fair play, his honesty, his dignity, his respect for his opposition, his innate sense of decency, his attitude to life, Murray Rose embodied all the values and the virtues that the Olympic movement treasures," Mr Coates said.

An emotional Jodi Rose wondered if her husband might have been embarrassed at the attention and praise from across the Australian community, from friends and some-time rivals in swimming to the Prime Minister Julia Gillard.

He was "my husband, my beloved, my man of the sea", she said in a poetic tribute.

"He thinks himself an ordinary man but when the light illuminates the whole picture we see him as extraordinary," she said.

Mrs Rose said the swimmer wanted to be remembered paddling out on a wave at Bondi Beach, she said.

She followed his casket from the church arm-in-arm with son Trevor.

Flowers from well-wishers shared the dais with an Olympic torch and a floral arrangement in the shape of the Olympic rings.

Sophie Tarr

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