Cathy Freeman OAM (b. 1973) was eight years old when she won her first race at a school athletics carnival in north Queensland. Coached initially by her stepfather, she had won a number of titles before earning scholarships to boarding schools in Toowoomba and Kooralbyn, where she trained with professional coaches. Aged sixteen, she was selected for the Australian women’s 4 x 100m relay team that took out the gold medal at the Commonwealth Games in Auckland, making her the first Aboriginal athlete to win a Commonwealth gold medal. She won two more gold medals at the Commonwealth Games in Canada in 1994 with victories in the 200m and 400m. The first Aboriginal track and field athlete to represent Australia at the Olympic Games, she won a silver medal in the 400m in Atlanta in 1996. She was ranked first in the world in her signature event, the 400m, in which she won back-to-back World Championships in 1997 and 1999, and, memorably, the Olympic gold medal in front of her home crowd in Sydney in 2000. She was the first person to be named both Young Australian of the Year (in 1990) and Australian of the Year (in 1998). Freeman retired from running in July 2003, still enjoying the immense popularity she earned during her exceptional career. The Catherine (now Cathy) Freeman Foundation was established in 2007 with the aim of enhancing educational opportunities for Aboriginal children.


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