SYDNEY - Australian four-time Olympic gold medallist Murray Rose was hailed Monday as one of the greatest swimmers of all-time following his death from leukaemia.
British-born Rose, who moved to Australia as an infant, died in Sydney on Sunday aged 73 and tributes poured in on Monday. Kieren Perkins, a two-time Olympic 1500m gold medallist, described Rose's passing as "absolutely devastating".
"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," Perkins said.
"I think for anybody that's been involved in distance swimming, the legend and the tradition that Murray Rose created I think really set the scene for decades."
Rose became an Olympic champion in 1956 as a 17-year-old, winning the first of his three golds at the Melbourne Games in the 4 x 200m freestyle relay.
He followed that with victories in the 400m and 1500m freestyle, becoming the first swimmer in 36 years to win both individual events.
He claimed the 400m freestyle title again at the 1960 Rome Olympics, and finished second to fellow Australian John Konrads in the 1500m.
"Murray Rose was certainly one of the greatest of all time," Konrads said, highlighting that his achievements came in the amateur era.
"There's Mark Spitz in the sprints and so on 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."
Rose did not take part at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics as he was not allowed to compete in trials in the US where he was studying, and Konrads believed he would have captured another gold in the 1500m had he raced.
His final swim for Australia came at the Perth Commonwealth Games in 1962 when he won all his four events.
Prime Minister Julia Gillard said Australia had lost one of its greatest Olympians.
"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," she said.
Rose, who was one of eight Olympic flag-bearers at the opening ceremony of the 2000 Sydney Olympics, is survived by his wife Jodi and son Trevor.