Cathy Freeman is an Australian sprinter who specialises in the 400-metre race. She won her first gold medal at a school athletics championship when she was eight years old. Like many Australian Aboriginal people, Freeman's family was poor and experienced racial discrimination. Her family worked hard to raise the money needed to take her to national competitions. The family moved to Brisbane in 1989 to be near Freeman, who had won a scholarship to Kooralbyn International School, where she was being professionally coached. After moving to Melbourne in 1990, she won a gold medal as a member of the 4 x 100-metre relay team at the Commonwealth Games in Auckland, New Zealand, becoming the first Australian Aboriginal woman to win a gold medal at an international athletics event. In 1990, Freeman was named Aboriginal Athlete of the Year.
At the 1994 Commonwealth Games, held in Victoria, Canada, she made world headlines after winning the 400-metre race, because she flew the Aboriginal flag instead of the Australian flag during her victory lap. Although the Australian team leader barred her from flying the Aboriginal flag, Freeman defied him by flying the Aboriginal flag again after she won the 200-metre race. She used the publicity to explain the symbolism of the Aboriginal flag: red for the earth, the ochre used in ceremonies, and Aboriginal people's spiritual relationship to the land; yellow for the sun, the giver and protector of all life; and black for the Aboriginal people of Australia.
Freeman lit the cauldron at the Sydney Olympics in 2000. Also in 2000, she was awarded an Australian Sports Medal, recognising her achievements as World Champion in 1997 and 1999, Commonwealth Champion in 1994, and winner of the Victorian Institute of Sport Award of Excellence in 1997. Freeman was named World Sportswoman of the Year in 2001. On 15 July 2003, she announced her retirement from competitive running. Her last official sporting engagement was in 2006, when she was one of the final runners in the Queen's Baton Relay, bringing the baton into the Melbourne Cricket Ground at the Opening Ceremony of the 2006 Commonwealth Games in Melbourne, Victoria.
Since retiring, Freeman has dedicated her time to the Cathy Freeman Foundation and the numerous other charities of which she is a patron.
Cathy was inducted into Sport Australia Hall of Fame in October 2011.