New to Bounty?
It’s now 20 years on from the Sydney 2000 Olympics which means two whole decades since Cathy Freeman’s iconic climb up floating stairs through parting water to light the a rising cauldron.
That moment, and the Olympic glory that followed with her famous, almost supernatural performance in the 400m that saw her claim Olympic gold cemented Cathy as one of the greatest, most inspiring Australians of all time.
47-year-old Cathy has managed to navigate that adoration and fame over the years, turning her notoriety into exposure for the Cathy Freeman Foundation, a non-profit organisation that focuses on educational programs to help Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children fulfil their potential in school and beyond.
Setting boundaries has been a huge part of Cathy’s journey in accepting her role as an Australian icon since 2000, and none more so than the boundaries she sets over access to her daughter, 9yo Ruby.
The Olympic anniversary and the new documentary, Freeman currently streaming on ABC iView means that the famously private Olympian is once again gaining huge public interest as her incredible grit, determination and groundbreaking performance both athletically and culturally are once again being celebrated.
But that story is the former Australian of the Year’s story and the protective mother has been making sure that Ruby gets to have her own story, to share or keep to herself as she sees fit.
And it’s been that was from the start. When Ruby was a toddler, Cathy spoke with a local publication about why she was so protective of keeping her daughter’s life under wraps.
“My life is public enough,” she said at the time. “Every mother is a lioness especially when it comes to the security and welfare of their child, and I would never subject Ruby to that scrutiny.”
Cathy and her husband James Murch in 2016.
Cathy shares Ruby with stockbroker husband, 45-year-old James Murch. The pair welcomed their daughter, Ruby Anne Susie Murch in 2011 and the trio have formed a tight family unit.
“Mum and my husband James were like rocks to me when I was pregnant,” Cathy blogged when Ruby was just 16 months old.
“When I needed my mum for support, she jumped at the chance to mother me.
“Mum was fantastic. She stayed for two months in all. Two weeks before the birth and time after.
“I love to see her with Ruby. I have always respected Mum but it has become so much deeper.”
At the time, Cathy, whose fierce determination formed the backbone of her career, credited motherhood for teaching her that asking for help was not such a bad thing.
“I realised that I no longer could do everything for myself or on my own,” she wrote. “I simply had to rely on James and my mum for their help and support.”
Speaking with Living Black host, Karla Grant in 2014, the OAM recipient spoke about the lessons that motherhood had bestowed upon her.
“If you want to talk about my fears and my vulnerabilities, my strength and my power and if you wanna question who you actually are, you’ll find the answers – I find the answers – about who I really am in the way in which I am a mother to this little girl,” an emotional Cathy shared.
“She tests me, she stretches me, she brings out the worst in me but she just brings out all of who I am.
“It’s a little bit ‘oh my gosh, I’m not ever really ready for that. Parenthood’s tough, but I’m loving every single second of it even when I feel completely powerless.”
WATCH: Cathy Freeman opens up about motherhood. Continues after video …
Pregnancy was not an easy ride for the Olympic legend. During her pregnancy Cathy developed type 2 diabetes.
“I was just really concerned for the health of my unborn child,” she told a local publication.
The condition forced the mum-to-be to inject herself with insulin four times a day during her pregnancy, cut back on sugar and exercise regularly. A genetic predisposition could have been in play, with both the athletic star’s parents and one of her brothers having the same condition.
“Diabetes isn’t fun, it’s a bit of a downer to be frank!”
Cathy Freeman became an Olympic champion in 2000, cementing her place in the history books.
While she’s determined to keep Ruby away from public scrutiny, Cathy is no stranger to it herself, and none more so than during the early days of motherhood.
Speaking with a local publication at that time, the sporting hero confessed that she struggled a little with the mum judgement.
“It’s the pressure, the judgment,” she shared. “I feel such judgment but I think it’s natural and normal to feel it because you care. It’s not only from midwives but from my family and my mother and my aunts and all the really strong women in my family.”
As for Cathy’s own legacy to her daughter, she’s always been happy for Ruby to run her own race.
“There’s only one sport I’m keen for our little girl to do, and that’s taekwondo,” the Mackay-born athlete told a local publication in 2014. “Just for self-defence purposes, and for disciplinary reasons!”
In 2011, while still new parents themselves, Cathy Freeman and her husband James Murch looked into adopting an indigenous Palm Island baby.
“We definitely would have continued it but things turned out really well for the baby, thankfully circumstances turned out really well,’ the Gold Medallist told journalists at the time.
The pair have never ruled out adopting and if the circumstances were right admit that they would consider it.
Right now Cathy, James and Ruby, are at home in Melbourne, locked down like the rest of the community there due to COVID-19 restrictions.
The stage four lockdown regulations meant the Olympic great was unable to travel to Sydney for the 20th anniversary for the games.
“I’m too busy kind of burrowing away at domestic bliss now, as you are, as others are sometimes,” she said of lockdown to the ABC.
Since 2007, Cathy has been the co-founder and director of the Cathy Freeman Foundation, a non-profit organisation that focuses on educational programs to help Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children fulfil their potential in school and beyond.
“Growing up I had the opportunity to experience quality educational opportunities and the support to go with it. By going to school, I was able to recognise my potential as an athlete and fulfil my dream of achieving Olympic gold,” she says on her website.
“Attending school opens up opportunities to learn, experience life and allows children to explore their talents. I believe education is the key to a positive pathway.”