In August 23 years ago, one of the Commonwealth Games most iconic moments unfolded, as an Australian champion announced herself to the world.
A 21-year-old Cathy Freeman, after winning gold in the 200m final at the 1994 Commonwealth Games in Canada, paraded with the Aboriginal and Australian flag.
I know when Aboriginal people look at that flag they feel good about themselves and, if I can make a difference to how people feel about themselves, I’ll do whatever it takes.
And while the victory lap dominated headlines across Australia, Freeman’s efforts on track weren’t lost on fans and rivals around the world.
Days before the 200m winning run, Freeman had taken gold in the 400m final in a Commonwealth Games record of 50.28sec, eclipsing the record set by Jamaican Marilyn Neufville by 0.64sec.
Freeman’s 200m run was also a Games record of 22.25sec and Australian record - defeating pre-race favourite, Nigerian Mary Onyali-Omagbemi, with fellow Australian Melinda Gainsford-Taylor in third.
The history making efforts was the first time a female had won the 200m/400m double at the Games.
Quoted in the Canberra Times after her 400m title, Freeman said:
I never worry about anything, that’s the thing I have going for me. It is a step forward, 1990 was great starting point but this is another start, I want to go on to better things and next year I have the world championships.
I was quietly confident, I spoke to my mum [in Australia] and she told me to believe in myself. I was calm and confident and I wouldn’t have run the race any other way. All through the race I felt comfortable, it wasn’t until 120 or 150m to go that I actually went for it.
Individual medals may have eluded Freeman at the following World Championships in 1995 in Gothenburg, Sweden, but the Queensland-born track star made progress in 1996 and was France’s Marie-Jose Perec biggest challenger at the Olympics Games that year in Atlanta, USA where she took silver.
Freeman followed up her Olympic medal with gold at the 1997 world championships in Athens. An injury plagued 1998 season was followed by an unbeaten run in 1999, that included gold at the 1999 Seville world championships.
This led to the GC2018 Ambassadors greatest moment on the track, 400m champion at the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games.
Speaking to Mark Howard on The Howie Games podcast about the Sydney 2000 victory, Freeman said:
I wanted to be an Olympic champion and I didn’t care about the goings-on around me.
In my heart and with all of my soul I was ready, willing and I was very able.
I had a deadly sense of self-belief. I’d go to another level and say I had a deadly sense of self-conviction where you can say whatever you want, you can do whatever you want but you’re not going to touch me.
A new generation of track and field stars will get their chance to make a name for themselves at the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games from 4-15 April next year.