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Running legend Ron Clarke dies, aged 78

AAP

AAP

Ron Clarke, one of Australia’s greatest athletes and a former mayor of the Gold Coast, has died after a short illness, aged 78.

Clarke gained prominence on the athletics track in the 1950s and 1960s and officially set 17 world records.

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He died in a gold coast hospital early on wednesday morning, the Gold Coast city council confirmed.

Mr Clarke, who lit the Olympic flame at the 1956 Melbourne Olympics at the age of 19, died in hospital on Wednesday after a short illness, aged 78.

1956 MELBOURNE OLYMPICS ANNIVERSARY

John Landy and Ron Clarke in a race at the Melbourne Olympics. Photo: AAP

He had been struggling with heart and kidney disease.

The runner gained prominence on the athletics track in the 1950s and 1960s. He was regarded as one of Australia’s best middle and long distance runners, and set 17 world records.

He also was involved in one of the greatest moments in Australian athletics. When he fell in a 1956 race, fellow competitor John Landy stopped to help Clarke, then recovered from the act of selflessness to stage a comeback to win the race.

At the 1964 Olympics in Tokyo, he won a bronze medal in the 10,000-metre event, but never went on to snare Olympic gold.

Perhaps his most famous race came four years later at the Olympics in Mexico City, when he collapsed and came close to dying from altitude sickness during the gruelling final of the 10km race.

Clarke finished in sixth place, but later said he could not recall anything about the final stretches of the race. He went on to compete in the 5km event a few days later.

After his athletics career ended, he served two terms as the Gold Coast mayor from 2004, before making an unsuccessful tilt at state politics.

Despite maintaining a strong fitness regime throughout his life, Mr Clarke had been struggling with his health.

He was less mobile after being injured in an accident after his retirement from public life in 2012, the Gold Coast Bulletin reported.

Watch: John Landy stopping to help fallen Ron Clarke at 1956 Australian National Championships.

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