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Her high-profile victories raised the profile of indigenous peoples worldwide and made an indelible mark on women’s athletics.

Early promise

Catherine Astrid Salome Freeman was born on 16 February 1973 in Mackay, Queensland, Australia. The young Aborigine, known as Cathy, won her first gold medal at a school athletics championship when she was eight years old.


In 1993, Freeman was eliminated in the semi-finals of the World Championships. On the way back to Australia, she wrote on the back of an airsickness bag her goal for the 400m at the 1996 Olympic Games: “48.60 ATLANTA”. In fact, she ran a 48.63 to earn the silver medal and become the first Aborigine to earn a medal in an individual event.

Homecoming win

World Championship 400m wins in 1997 and 1999 made Cathy Freeman the favourite for the 2000 Sydney Games, where she was also given the honour of lighting the Olympic cauldron. Under pressure to perform well for her home crowd, she won a resounding victory in the 400m final – Australia’s 100th Olympic gold medal.

Inspiring unity

In July 2003, Cathy Freeman officially announced her retirement. As an Aborigine, she is regarded as a role model for her people, and also seen by many as a symbol of national reconciliation between indigenous and non-indigenous Australians.



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Cathy Freeman - The swift suit

The Aussie sprinter delivers gold while wearing an aerodynamic one-piece skinsuit in Sydney.
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Freeman strides home in Sydney

Australia's Cathy Freeman deals with the pressure of an expectant home crowd to deliver 400m gold at Sydney 2000.

The great moments of Olympism

In this 200th edition of the Olympic Magazine, watch the great moments of Olympism, with moments from the past and incredible flashbacks and moments from today! In this part: A spotlight on Cathy Freeman. Copyright IOC/EBU
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Opening Ceremony Sydney 2000

Cathy Freeman with the Olympic torch, just before the lighting of the cauldron at the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games

©Getty Al Bello
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Opening Ceremony Sydney 2000

Aboriginal athlete Cathy Freeman had the honour of being the last Olympic torchbearer. This strong symbol marked Australia’s desire to reconcile with Aboriginal people

©Getty Jamie Squire
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Cathy Freeman (AUS)

Running shoes worn by Cathy Freeman

©IOC Joëlle Bertoncini / Athlete’s collection


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