This year marks 16 years since the Sydney Olympics, so this week’s Flashback Friday is dedicated to arguably the finest moment of the Games for the host nation, Cathy Freeman’s triumph in the 400 metres final.
Mackay-born Freeman was the silver medallist at the Atlanta ’96 Olympics and was the face of the 2000 Games, lighting the Olympic flame at the opening ceremony and carrying the hopes of a nation in her specialist event.
Freeman overcame enormous pressure and hype to win the 400 metres gold in 49.11 seconds, becoming just the second Indigenous Australian to win an Olympic gold, after Nova Peris-Kneebone (women’s hockey, 1996).
In an unforgettable race, Freeman entered the straight behind Lorraine Graham of Jamaica, but strode out to win by three metres.
With Aboriginal rights and controversy over Australia’s historic treatment of Indigenous people providing a tense prelude to the Games, Freeman’s victory was timely and symbolic. The ultra-popular 27-year-old broke regulations by carrying the Aboriginal and Australian flags on her victory lap in another display of courage.
The Australian track legend collected gold at the 2002 Commonwealth Games as part of the 4 x 400 metres relay team (adding to three previous golds she won at the 1990 and ’94 Commonwealth Games) before announcing her retirement in 2003.