When Cathy Freeman sprinted across the finishing line of the 400 metres on 22 September 2000, to the tumultuous cheers of a jubilant home crowd, she became one of the most significant Olympians of modern times. In less than a minute, 31-year-old Freeman had become the first Australian Aborigine to win an Olympic track and field gold medal - her compatriot Nova Peris-Kneebone had, four years earlier, won a gold in Atlanta as part of Australia's victorious women's hockey team.
Running her victory lap, Freeman showed her patriotism and her cultural pride, draping both the Australian and the Aboriginal flags over her shoulders. For many of her indigenous and non-indigenous fellow citizens alike, this demonstration of national unity and reconciliation was to become the defining image of the Sydney Olympics.
Freeman had already achieved a first in 1992 in Barcelona when she became the first Aborigine to represent Australia at the Olympics. In 1996 at the Atlanta games she earned silver, before crowning her career with gold in Sydney - the most environmentally friendly of all Olympiads.
Cathy Freeman announced her retirement from competitive athletics in July 2003. But she continues to make an important impact on the international scene, working for sport, for the environment and for young people.
When you were growing up, was it difficult to train as a serious athlete as well as going to school?
Did you ever imagine you could win an Olympic gold?
How do you feel about being one of only two Aboriginal athletes to win a gold medal at the Olympic Games?
Australia awarded you the title of Young Australian of the Year in 1990 and Australian of the Year in 1998. Now you are going to be the face of the next Commonwealth Games, to be held in Melbourne in 2006. How do you feel about being such an Australian icon?
Which major environmental issues are you particularly interested in,
You are an ambassador for the Mitre 10 Landcare 'Caring for our Waterways' initiative, which supports local water projects across Australia. What motivates you to undertake the environmental work that you are currently involved in?
Do you feel that we could all learn something from the close relationship that Aboriginal people share with the natural world?
You have been working for many years with Inspire, an organization that supports and empowers young people. Can you tell us about it?
Now that you have retired from running, what do you plan to do in the future?
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