Olympic Gold Medalist Cathy Freeman of Australia will compete in the 2003 Prefontaine Classic Grand Prix on May 24th at Hayward Field. Freeman's storybook life and career have made her one of the most famous athletes in the history of track & field. How many Olympic champions, for example, get to light the Olympic Flame in the same Games, ones hosted by her country, in front of 110,000 spectators, and a worldwide television audience of billions? Just one--Cathy Freeman. During her remarkable career, she has been ranked No. 1 in the world three times by Track & Field News magazine, won two World Championships, had two unbeaten streaks at 400 meters of 21 races apiece, and on April 4th, 2003, won her ninth Australian National Championships at 400 meters.
All has not come without challenges, however. After taking 2001 off from training and competition, Freeman returned in 2002 hampered by a stress reaction in her tibia. Then her husband was diagnosed with throat cancer, and Cathy put her season on hold during his radiation treatments. At her husband's urging, she returned briefly to the track to compete on Australia's 4 x 400 relay team that set a new Commonwealth Games Record last July. Then this year, after a slow start during Australia's outdoor season, she ran her fastest time since the Olympic final in winning the Australian Championships.
"I'm getting there," she said in a post-race interview. "The more I race, the more I want it. I know what I'm capable of. What I really am after is two things--one is getting fitter and the other is the Olympic gold medal next year."
Freeman will have world-class competition at the Pre Classic, with recently-crowned World Indoor Championships 200 meter gold medalist Michelle Collins in the race. Collins is the defending meet champion and was ranked No. 5 in the world byT&FN at 400 meters last year. If Collins is not competition enough, Numbers 6 & 7 in the world, Kaltouma Nadjina of Chad, and Monique Hennagan of the U.S. are also confirmed entries.