Saturday, July 2 2022
Olympic 400m bronze medalist on Sydney 2000 ‘Magic Monday’, her toughest workouts and why Jodie Williams can break the UK record

When you ran Cathy Freeman in front of 112,000 people in the Olympic 400m final at Sydney 2000, do you remember it clearly or was it hazy?

I remember September 25, 2000, clear as day. Honestly, it feels like yesterday and not 22 years ago. I can close my eyes and see from the vantage point I had in lane three of this women’s 400m Olympic final with pure clarity and feel the same as I did in 2000. The whole occasion summed up was madness and it could have been a bit of a blur as it comes and goes.

When it came to the race, however, I remember the flashes on the straight, the top corner and the wheels dropping in the last 100m from lactic acid! I was like, “Do I have a medal? and then remember to look at the giant scoreboard to see if my name was in the top three. [Winning bronze] is still something that I am extremely proud of.

Cathy FreemanMark Shearman

What was the toughest session you usually do when training for the 400m?

It’s quite difficult to answer this question because I erased most of the workouts from my mind because they were a bit brutal. Under the direction of Linford Christie and trainer Ron Roddan, they put on some very interesting sessions. I think people are surprised to hear that I didn’t run very far down the track. I have never run more than 500m [for a repetition] in any given track session, so it was a real mix of speed and speed endurance.

I would say the worst/hardest session was when we started at 500m and went down in 100m increments and then back up from 100m. We used to get a decent amount back as we had 12-13 minutes, but psychologically it was as hard as anything we did.

The British record for the 400m is currently held at 49.41 by Christine Ohuruogu. Do you think anyone has a realistic chance of getting close to it, and if so, who do you think it will be?

Can someone break it soon? The only major talent that stands out of course from the last two years is Jodie Williams. She has made tremendous progress and going under 50 seconds now (49.97 PB) is really exciting. She comes from that sprinter based background and has a 200m PB of 22.46 which she has now transferred to the quarter mile distance.

I think she has the ability to run faster and I think right now she has a realistic chance of getting closer to that record in the next two or three years.

Jodie WilliamsGetty

Is athletics a hard sell? What do you think of the health of sport at the moment and what can be done to increase its outdoor exposure of an Olympic/Paralympic cycle?

Is athletics a hard sell? No. It never was and it never will be. Athletics is the most important sport in the world and don’t talk to me about football because I’m a huge football fan. Even armchair fans every four years will connect with athletics.

What it needs to have is the exposure and visibility to continue to be seen as well as it is – and that’s being on mainstream television, having as many matches covered as possible and promoting athletics where there is an equal balance given to everyone an event. Sports personalities need to be promoted more and we have them in sports.

READ MORE: Olympic victory for Cathy Freeman in the 400m

What can be done to increase exposure outside of this four-year cycle? It’s all about visibility and you need to see something to invest your time in it.

You have to be bought into a sport to care [about it] and enjoy. The health of the sport right now, some would say, could be better, but it’s not a hard sell if you can see it. It’s Olympic and Paralympic sport and the progress in disability sport, particularly with Channel 4, has been fantastic over the past decade.

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