Thu, Jul 17, 2003 - Page 20 News List

Freeman retires from athletics

REUTERS , LONDON

Australia's Cathy Freeman wins a women's 400m heat at the Olympic Stadium in Sydney in 2000.

PHOTO: AP

Australia's Olympic 400m champion Cathy Freeman says she is retiring from athletics after losing her desire to win, Melbourne paper The Age reported yesterday.

"I've lost that want, that desire, that passion, that drive," the 30-year-old told the paper. "I don't care any more."

Freeman, whose victory to the roars of a capacity crowd of 112,000 in Sydney was one of the highlights of the 2000 Games, took a year off after her win and has failed to find her best form since.

"I won't ever have the same fulfilling moment as I already have had," Freeman said. "I don't have the same hunger.

"I know what it takes to be a champion, to be the best in the world, and I just don't have that feeling right now. I'm tired all of a sudden," she said.

Freeman told Australian athletics head coach Keith Connor of her decision during a meeting in London, the paper said.

Connor, who had been hoping Freeman would go through with plans to run the 4x400m relay in next month's world championships in Paris, acknowledged that his team would have to race without her.

Connor was quoted as saying he was "quite happy" with the decision, but added: "Naturally, I'm disappointed for the team."

Speculation had been rife that Freeman might be on the verge of retirement, having announced last month that she planned to run the relay but not the individual event in Paris.

Freeman won the world title in both 1997 and 1999 but had still not posted an individual qualifying time for next month's championships when she decided not to go ahead with the individual event.

"I love running, it's all that I have known, and I hope the hunger for individual success returns in the coming months," she had said in a statement at the time.

She also said: "Speculation that I have retired is unfounded and any decision to do so will be solely my decision in my time and at my discretion."

Freeman, who as a schoolgirl used to run in bare feet along dry river beds, was only 16 when she won her first major gold medal -- in the 4x100m relay at the 1990 Commonwealth Games in Auckland.

She went on to become Australia's first Aboriginal track and field Olympic athlete at the 1992 Games in Barcelona and two years later took the Commonwealth 200m and 400m gold medals in Victoria.

Though her subsequent world titles established the Australian at the pinnacle of her event, the crowning glory was an emotionally charged Games in 2000 when she realized a childhood dream.

Chosen to light the Olympic flame, Freeman followed up with a pulsating victory on the track and then draped herself in the Australian and Aboriginal flags for a lap of honor, becoming a symbol of reconciliation between black and white.

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