Credit: AP

WELLINGTON, New Zealand — New Zealand runner Dick Quax died on Monday at the age of 70 after a long battle with cancer.

Regarded as one of his country’s greatest runners, Quax won a silver medal in the 5,000 meters at the 1976 Olympics and also set a world record for the distance.

Born in The Netherlands in 1948, Theodorus Jacobus Leonardus “Dick” Quax moved to New Zealand with his family as a child and, along with John Walker and Rod Dixon, he became part of a golden era of New Zealand middle-distance running in the 1970s.

He finished a close second behind Finland’s Lasse Virren in the 5,000 meters at the Montreal Olympics and a year later, he set a then-world record of 13 minutes, 12.9 seconds in Stockholm.

Walker, who won the gold medal in the 1,500 meters at Montreal and was a world record-holder at the mile, led the tributes to Quax.

“Dick was one of the hardest-working competitors on and off the track,” Walker posted on social media. “”He helped me a lot as a young athlete and I will always be grateful for our time shared during and after our running careers and above else getting to know a great man and friend.”

Dixon said he would remember Quax as “my great friend and competitor” while Nick Willis, who won a silver medal for New Zealand in the 1,500 meters at the 2008 Beijing Olympics and a bronze medal in the same event at Rio de Janeiro eight years later, described Quax as “one of the all-time greats.”

“Thanks Dick Quax for being such a great role model to me, and influence to our sport as an athlete, coach and meet promoter. Will be sorely missed,” Willis wrote.

Quax was diagnosed with throat cancer in 2013, but told an interviewer in January “I’m not dying of cancer, I’m living with cancer.”

A family friend said he passed away at an Auckland hospital.

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