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Australia's Aboriginal Olympians

Cathy Freeman, Nova Peris-Kneebone

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    One of Australia's Aboriginal Olympians and the nation's favorite athletic superhero, Cathy Freeman, blitzed her rivals in the women's 400m track event to win the gold medal at the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games on the night of September 25.

    It was the 100th gold medal won for Australia since the start of the modern Olympics in 1896.

    As one of the country's Aboriginal Olympians, Freeman carried the intertwined Australian and Aboriginal flags at the completion of her race to manifest her pride in the heritage of her people.

Traditionally, for a country of beach, sea and surf lovers, Australia’s best medal hopes in the Olympics have been its swimmers.

In 2000, at the Sydney Olympics, there was a widening of focus -- to encompass not only the pool but also track and field and a host of other Olympic events.

Australia’s hopes in the women's 400m track event -- and the Aboriginal people’s pride -- lay with two of the country’s Aboriginal Olympians: Cathy Freeman and Nova Peris-Kneebone.

CATHY FREEMAN
State: Victoria
Date of Birth: February 16, 1973
Place of Birth: Mackay, Queensland
Residence: Melbourne, Victoria
Height: 164cm
Weight: 52kg
Marital Status: Married
Club: Ringwood Athletic Club
Records: Australian and Commonwealth Record: 400m - 48.63s
Australian U20 Record: 400m - 51.14s
Australian U20 Record: 200m - 22.62s

NOVA PERIS-KNEEBONE
State: Northern Territory
Date of Birth: February 25, 1971
Place of Birth: Darwin, Northern Territory
Residence: Darwin, NT and Melbourne, Victoria
Height: 170cm
Weight: 58kg
Marital Status: Married, 1 child
Club: Melbourne University Athletic Club
Achievements: First Aboriginal Australian to win an Olympic gold medal, Atlanta, USA, 1996
First runner in Australian Olympic Torch Relay
Shifted from hockey to track and field

    (The above statistics were as of August 2000 before the start of the Sydney Olympics.)

On the night of September 25, 2000, all Australia raced with Cathy Freeman in the women's 400m. Freeman won the race in 49.11 seconds, beating Lorraine Graham (49.58sec) of Jamaica into second place and Katharine Merry (49.72sec) of Great Britain into third place.

In the semifinal the night before, Peris-Kneebone did not qualify for the final.

Freeman and Peris-Kneebone are Aboriginal Olympians proud of their race and the uniqueness of their heritage.

UPDATE. Cathy Freeman announced in July 2003 that she was retiring from athletics. Neither she nor Nova Peris (who divorced sometime after the Sydney Olympics and dropped Kneebone from her name) competed in the 2004 Athens Olympics.

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