AUSTRALIAN swimming legend Dawn Fraser has paid tribute to Bendigo Olympic gold medallist Faith Leech.
Ms Fraser and Ms Leech formed a life-long friendship when they won gold with the Australian 4x100 metres freestyle relay team at the 1956 Melbourne Olympics.
Ms Leech is Bendigo's only female Olympic gold medallist.
She died on September 14.
Ms Fraser travelled to Bendigo on the weekend Ms Leech died and although arriving too late to say her final goodbyes in person, did get to speak with her friend on the phone during the afternoon.
"After 57 years of true friendship, I and the Australian sporting world have lost a great friend," Ms Fraser told the Bendigo Advertiser.
"We would talk on the phone quite often, not just about the great times that we spent together in the village during the 1956 Games in Melbourne, but of the friends that we made.
"Then, of course, it became about our families.
"Times in those days were very different to today... ours were very lasting friendships."
Ms Fraser said she would miss Ms Leech dearly.
"I will miss her phone calls and her friendship and her going mad at me whenever I change my phone number and not telling her straight away.
"She will be missed by a lot of people and, of course, the proud people of Bendigo."
Ms Fraser said she would return to Bendigo to attend a service for Ms Leech next month.
The Leech family is still finalising details for the service at St Paul's Cathedral in Myers Street, Bendigo, on October 16.
The Australian Olympic Committee has offered the Olympic Flag to the Leech family for the service.
The honour is bestowed on every Olympian.
Ms Leech's son Adam told the Bendigo Advertiser earlier this month the AOC Olympic flag offering was a 'wonderful honour'.
Mr Tuohy said the thanksgiving service for his mother's life would be open to the public.
''It's obviously a great personal loss for the family but it is for the community as well,'' he said.
''That is obvious from the support we have had."