Cathy Freeman

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Cathy Freeman Cathy was born in Mackay in the Queensland, a state in Australia with a tropical climate. She was one of five children. She grew up in a lively family where there was lots of support from aunties, uncles and cousins. There were lots of big gatherings where all of the family would come and share a barbecue, cricket game and even the occasional attempt at a corroboree.

While she was protected from some of the injustices experienced by aboriginals at the time, she was aware of their impact. Her grandmother had been taken from her parents at the age of 10 and sent to Palm Island to grow up.

When she was nine, her mother remarried and the family moved to an area near Mount Isa.

As a child, she was tall and skinny and naturally good at running. While she was unhappy for a time in their home at Hughenden because of the isolation and the fact that it was so far from the sea, she soon became involved in sport at school, making friends and settling down.

At the age of 10, she was able to run 11 laps of the school oval – and at that time, her stepfather told her she would one day run in the Olympics. She won a bronze medal at her first time at the National School Championships. At her second appearance, she won even more medals without having to really train.

As a twelve-year-old, she was sent to the Australian Institute for Sport for assessment. While the coach figured that she had some potential, she was rather laid back and was considered not really ready for a full on commitment to running. Nevertheless, her stepfather was encouraged to continue to encourage her to participate at a local level and to work at improving.

Her skill in the area soon won her a couple of scholarships to a boarding school where she would be closer to the athletics action.

Cathy moved to success in the international arena 1994 at the Commonwealth Games, where she won gold medals in the 200m and 400m events. She won the silver medal in the 400m at the Atlanta Olympics and in 1997 she rattled conservatives by wrapping herself in the aboriginal flag after winning her the 1997 world track and field championships in Athens. Freeman is now on track to win gold at the Sydney 2000 Olympics. She has recently announced that if she wins gold, she will do her lap of victory with the Aboriginal flag again, and this has reopened the old wound with Australian sports officials.

Cathy Freeman has beaten the odds – the odds that in Australia often result in young aboriginals failing to achieve to such high standards. She has resisted the criticisms of those who would say she couldn’t do it because of her background. She has shown that with pride, ambition and strength of will, we can have dreams and make these a reality.