Neville Scott, a legend among New Zealand's great runners, who fought back from almost impossible odds to compete at the 1964 Olympic Games, has died in Auckland, aged 69.

Scott initially showed promise as a middle-distance runner, winning the New Zealand junior mile title in 1953. Running for the Ellerslie Club, he beat Murray Halberg - a future Olympic champion - for the Auckland mile title in 1956 with a time of 4m 4s. In less than a year he had lowered his mile time to 4m 2.5s.

Scott, at the age of 21, competed in the 1500m final at the 1956 Melbourne Olympic Games, finishing seventh, in 3m 42.8s, four places ahead of Halberg.

At the 1958 British Empire and Commonwealth Games in Cardiff, Wales, Scott won the bronze medal in the three-mile event. He also competed in the mile, finishing ninth.

Scott suffered from alcoholism, but fought back to recover in 1963, to win the Auckland three-mile title and join Halberg in a bid for the world 5000m record. During the race, at his Manurewa Club grounds, Scott tore a strip of skin from one of his bare feet, but still ran his best three-mile time of 13m 20.8s.

Scott was initially coached by Arthur Lydiard, followed by Arch Jelley in the 1960s.

He qualified for the 1964 Tokyo Olympic Games, but just before the event took a heavy fall and severely injured his hip. Courageously, and against medical advice, he insisted on running, and limped home last in great pain in his 5000m heat.

Scott won the New Zealand three-mile title three times and set New Zealand records in the 1500m, three miles and twice in the two miles.

He fought a long battle with cancer over the past three years.