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Wednesday, 9 May 2012
Page: 4457

Mr ALEXANDER (Bennelong) (17:02): On indulgence: Murray Rose, a national Australian treasure and sporting hero, sadly lost his battle with leukaemia on Sunday, 15 April 2012 at the age of 73. His contribution to Australian sport since the 1950s cannot be overstated, nor can his selfless character, warm spirit or gentle nature.

He was born Iain Murray Rose on 6 January 1939 in Great Britain, and his family moved to Sydney when he was a baby. His lifelong passion for swimming began at the age of five when he commenced lessons with coach Sam Herford, who, upon seeing his dog paddling, immediately informed Rose's parents of his strong potential. There was a man with an eye for talent! He subsequently won four gold medals, three of which were attained by the age of 17. Remarkably, this performance made Rose the youngest triple gold medallist across all sports in the history of the Olympic Games. He excelled in freestyle and competed in the 1956 Melbourne games and the 1960 Rome games, both individually and in relay groups.

When Rose was still competing, he pursued his interest in acting and completed a degree in drama and television from the University of Southern California in 1962. Two years later, he starred in a Hollywood film, Ride the Wild Surf, alongside Barbara Eden and Tab Hunter. It is widely accepted that he would have competed in the 1964 Tokyo Olympic Games had it not been for his missing the national championships due to acting commitments.

I am well aware of the dedication, persistence and passion required to achieve at this highest level. These qualities, combined with Murray's good looks, charm and superb skill, characterised his many extraordinary achievements. I was privileged to have met Murray on several occasions and was struck by his lovely character and surprising diet. Mostly these meetings were charity events where he was giving his time to help others less fortunate.

A well-known vegetarian at a time when restaurants and cafes did not cater for such needs, Rose would often rush to his parents' residence, even when competing, to have a home cooked meal from his mother. It is therefore no surprise that he earned the endearing nickname 'Seaweed Streak'. This story is yet another indication of Rose's desire to achieve irrespective of the sacrifices he had to make. He even attributed his success to the diet and its associated health benefits.

His contribution to swimming was no less remarkable after retirement. At the age of 40 it is reported that he swam even faster than in the 1956 Melbourne games. Rose also contributed significantly as a patron of the Rainbow Club Australia, which provided swimming lessons for mentally and physically disabled children—a true Australian champion. Rose has been survived by his wife, Jodi, and children Trevor and Somerset. I offer my sincere condolences to his family and friends as well as to many others who were touched by his character and inspirational achievements, including the four gold medals and 15 world records.

Murray Rose should be remembered as a gentleman and as a true Australian legend, whose achievements initiated a wonderful period in Australian and world sport. Equally, though, he should be remembered not just as a great champion in the pool but as a champion human being.