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Peter Thomson elevated to "legend" status

Peter Thomson has officially achieved legend status, being elevated to the highest level of the Sport Australia Hall of Fame.

The five-time British Open champion became the first golfer to achieve legend status at the hall's annual induction ceremony.

He joined 20 other sportspeople out of the hall's 318 members and 124 associate members who are denoted legends.

Thomson won five British Open championships between 1954-65 and also three Australian Opens.

Fellow golfer Bruce Crampton was among five sportspeople who were inducted into the hall last night out of 28 nominees.

The others were Phillip Dutton (equestrian), Oarsome Foursome member Nick Green (rowing), goalkicking machine Peter Hudson (AFL) and squash star Michelle Martin.

"The Don" annual award went to tennis star Pat Rafter, as the athlete whose example most inspired the nation.

Rafter won the award ahead of retired Wallaby captain John Eales, Grant Hackett, US Open champion Lleyton Hewitt, Australian Test captain Steve Waugh and Karrie Webb.

A Hall spokesperson said The Don was not a "best of the best" award, but was more about inspiration and example.

Rafter joined marathon runner Heather Turland and cricketer Mark Taylor, swimmer Ian Thorpe and sprinter Cathy Freeman as winners of the award.

Thomson was overwhelmed with his elevation to legend status and was joined on stage by more than 20 members of his family as well as fellow top Australian golfer, Kel Nagle.

He paid tribute to Sir Donald Bradman, who died this year, after whom the Don Award was named.

"My God, if you did anything in your sporting life, you had to match yourself against the great man," Thomson said of Sir Donald.

"Pat Rafter is the epitome of Don Bradman."

Rafter received his award for the sportsmanship he displayed after losing the Wimbledon final to Croatian Goran Ivanisevic.

Rafter's parents accepted the award on his behalf and father Jim said he was in awe of his son's humility and composure.

"The way Pat lost, the way he handled losing made me feel you are a very great man, my son," Jim said.

Rafter appeared in a pre-recorded video interview and said Wimbledon may never see another day like the extraordinary five set final between himself and Ivanisevic.

"If I had to lose to anyone outside of an Australian, I'd lose to Goran," Rafter said.

Prime Minister John Howard presented the award to Rafter's parents and also announced the Australian Sports Commission would donate $200,000 over the next four years to help with the Hall of Fame operations.

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