JavaScript is required

Cathy Freeman OAM

At her home Olympics in 2000, Cathy Freeman was the first Aboriginal person to win an individual Olympic gold medal.

Honour Roll

Cathy Freeman was born on 16 February 1973 in Mackay, Queensland. As a child she showed potential as an athlete and won a scholarship to a boarding school and was able to have professional coaching.

Cathy first won gold at the 1990 Commonwealth Games in the 4x100 metre relay. That year, she was awarded the Young Australian of the Year and the following year she was the Aboriginal Athlete of the Year. In 1992, she became the first Aboriginal track and field athlete to represent Australia at an Olympic Games. She came seventh in the 4x400 metre relay.

Cathy rose to prominence at the 1994 Commonwealth Games where she won two gold medals, in the 200 metres and 400 metres. She breached protocol by brandishing the Aboriginal flag on her victory lap, but won many admirers and became an overnight celebrity. The flying of these flags on the victory lap at the Commonwealth Games has been a lasting symbol for reconciliation in Australia.

At the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games Cathy set a Commonwealth record and won a silver medal in the 400 metres, coming second to Marie-Jose Perec in a great race. Cathy then won the 400 metres at both the 1997 and 1999 World Championships, thereby stamping her authority on that event. In 1997, she was named Australian of the Year.

The Sydney Olympics were billed to be a showdown between Perec and Freeman in the 400 metres but Perec pulled out at the last minute. The Sydney Olympics marked the highpoint in Cathy's illustrious career. She was given the prestigious honour of lighting the cauldron, in an opening ceremony that celebrated Australia's great female athletes. Shirley Strickland (de la Hunty), Raelene Boyle, Dawn Fraser, Betty Cuthbert and Shane Gould passed the torch around before handing it to Cathy dressed in a shimmering white body suit.

Despite all the hyperbole surrounding this dramatic opening, Cathy managed to maintain her focus and won gold in the 400 metres, the first Aboriginal woman to win an individual gold medal. It was also Australia's 100th Olympic Gold medal. She also made it to the 200 metre final where she came seventh and ran fifth in the 4x400 metre relay in a new Australian record time.

In 2001, Cathy decided to take a break from competition, stating that she had lost the hunger. Although she made an overt political statement in 1996 she refrained from being outspoken on Aboriginal issues, preferring to let her actions speak for themselves. Despite her great success, Cathy remained a very natural and humble person and one of great dignity. Cathy has proved to be a great role model for all young Australians.