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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 (AUS)

Cathy Freeman at The Olympic Museum in Lausanne (Switzerland), with her shoes in the background

©IOC Giulio Locatelli
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Cathy Freeman (AUS)

Cathy Freeman on the track in Sydney 2000

©Getty Andy Lyons
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FILE PHOTO Freeman Announces Retiremant

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - SEPTEMBER 25: (FILE PHOTO) Cathy Freeman of Australia celebrates with her Gold medal after winning the Women's 400m final at the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games, Sydney Australia. Freeman announced July 15, 2003 her intention to retire from athletics. She was scheduled to compete in next month's World Athletics Championships, but has decided to bring her career to a close. (Photo by Hamish Blair/Getty Images)
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Oly W 4x400m X

30 Sep 2000: Cathy Freeman of Australia in action, during the final of the Women's 4 x 400m Relay at the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games, held at Stadium Australia, Homebush Bay in Sydney, Australia. DIGITAL IMAGE Mandatory Credit: Mark Dadswell/ALLSPORT
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Oly W 4x400m relay

30 Sep 2000: Cathy Freeman of Australia in action in the Women's 4x400m relay held at Olympic Stadium during the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games, Sydney, Australia. Mandatory Credit: Allsport/ALLSPORT
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Marion Jones

28 Sep 2000: Marion Jones of the USA (left) wins the Womens 200m Final with Pauline Davis Thompson of Bahrain (centre) winning Silver and Cathy Freeman of Australia finishing Seventh at the Olympic Stadium on Day 13 of the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney, Australia. \ Mandatory Credit: Andy Lyons /Allsport


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