New Zealand rowing great Simon Dickie has passed away suddenly at the age of 66.

Dickie was a cox who won three Olympic medals; part of a rare group of New Zealanders to accomplish that feat.

His first medal came in 1968 in Mexico City at just 17 years of age, winning gold as part of the coxed four, before famously winning gold at the 1972 Olympics in Munch with the New Zealand eight.

He then came out of retirement to win his third Olympic medal; claiming bronze with the eight at the 1976 Montreal Games.

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Police confirmed they were called to a report of a sudden death at a property on Taupo's Napier Rd, where Dickie lived, just after 9.01am today, while Rowing New Zealand confirmed the news of his death tonight.

Athol Earl, a teammate of Dickie's in the medal-winning eight in 1972 and 1976, remembered Dickie as a "larger than life personality."

"He had belief in himself, he had belief in those around him, he had the confidence to drag you with him really - he was just a super confident guy who you couldn't help but look up to," Earl told Radio Sport.

Earl recalled Dickie as being one of the coxswains who was respected by all the rowers he worked alongside.

"He commanded that mana, he commanded that respect, he had the ability to read a race and make little tweaks to race plans as they were needed.

"He had that unique ability - I've had many good coxswains but none that came near Simon."

Earl admits that the death came as a shock, with Dickie having been busy with planning and taking part in reunions over the past few days.

"Yesterday he was having a reunion with the Mexico four, and Simon was a superb host. The overall groups of that era are still pretty tight - we were planning our next reunion for the Halberg Awards - plenty of emails going back and forth over the past few days of which Simon was a part of."

Dickie is one of just 12 New Zealanders to have won three or more medals at the Olympic Games.