Cathy Freeman - Australia - Defends World crown in Seville

Photo/Foto: George Herringshaw

Date: 22 August 1999

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      Friday, 16 February 1973
      Mackay, Australia.
  • Australia

Cathy FREEMAN - Australia - Defends World crown in Seville

Cathy Freeman's campaign to defend her 400m World title started cautiously in 1999, following the injury that sidelined her for most of the 1998 season. Her first major test occurred when she met Falilat Ogunkoya (the 1996 Olympic bronze medallist) at Monaco on 4 August. Ogunkoya had only four days earlier run 49.62sec, which would remain the fastest time for 1999, in winning the Nigerian Championships at Lagos. Freeman prevailed at Monaco in a closely run race in a time of 49.76sec with Ogunkoya only 0.14sec behind. Freeman next won the British Grand Prix event at Crystal Palace in 50.32sec with Ogunkoya again the runner-up 0.10sec behind. The attention then transferred to the World Championships held in Seville. With archrival Marie-Jose Perec unavailable due to injury, Freeman's main competition was expected to come from Ogunkoya and the German Grit Breuer. Cathy breezed through the two preliminary rounds, but drew the unfavourable lane 8 in the semi-final. The field turned into the straight with Freeman two metres behind Breuer, but Cathy then powered away, crossing the line first in 49.76sec. Breuer was never a factor in the final, being well out of it by the 300m mark. Freeman and Ogunkoya entered the straight with Cathy holding a slender lead. She quickly burnt off the challenge, and finished strongly in 49.67sec easily holding of the fast finishing Anja R¸cker (49.74sec), and Jamaican Lorraine Graham (49.92sec). It had been a great year for Cathy Freeman. She had been undefeated in 11 starts over 400m, had recorded three of the fastest five times of the year, and had successfully defended her World Championship title. She couldnít have wished for a better preparation to tackle the following year's dream challenge - winning an Olympic Gold medal in front of an Australian home crowd. (Ron Casey)