The Beijing 2008 Olympic Games

PUBLISHED : Monday, 14 May, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 14 May, 2007, 12:00am

Only 452 days to go

A. Olympic heroines

At the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games, many women will enjoy the personal thrills of taking part in the world's greatest sporting competition, but it has been a hard struggle getting there.

In the early years of the Modern Games, women were not allowed to take part in track athletic events because they weren't considered strong enough to run the distances.

Many of today's events in which female athletes put in superb performances are only recent additions to the Olympic programme. The marathon and 400-metre hurdles were only introduced in 1984, the 10,000 metres in 1988 and the 5,000 metres in 1996.

Today, women athletes are closing the gap between them and the men, and some athletic experts believe there will be no need for separate women's track events in the not too distant future. Now, there is a day worth waiting for!

1. A world record was broken in the women's 400-metres hurdles event in 1980. (True / False)

2. Women have been allowed to take part in track events in the Modern Olympics since the Games began. (True / False)

3. Barriers are still being broken down between male and female events in the Olympics. (True / False)

B. Cathy waves the flag

Cathy Freeman is not only an Olympic heroine, she is also a role model for her people, the native Aborigines of Australia.

She was born in 1973, and from an early age she loved running. At the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, Freeman won the silver medal in the 400m, and she gained gold before a home crowd in the 2000 Games in Sydney. After winning her medal, Freeman bravely waved both the Aboriginal and the Australian flag in her victory lap of the arena. The display of non-national flags is banned at the Olympic Games, but Freeman was representing her native people as well as her country and she wanted everyone to know this.

At the opening ceremony of the Sydney Olympics, Cathy Freeman was the athlete chosen to light the Olympic flame. This makes her the only Olympian ever to have lit the Olympic flame and then go on to win a gold medal in the same games. Cathy Freeman retired from competitive running in 2003.

C. Against all the odds

As she was growing up, Wilma Rudolph had a dream that one day she would walk like other children of her age. At the age of four, Wilma had contracted polio, a dreadful disease that left her left leg crippled. For seven long years the little girl had to wear a metal brace so that she could walk. Every week she and her mother made a hundred mile journey to a treatment centre where medical work could be done on her leg.

When she was 11, Wilma's leg brace was removed, and she began to walk without help. Wilma Rudolph then made an important decision. She decided to take up running to strengthen her leg even more. She entered running contests and wasn't deterred when she always came last.

But soon, Wilma Rudolph was coming first. At the age of 16, she won a bronze medal in the 1956 Olympics in the 4x100m relay. Four years later, in the 1960 Rome Olympics, Wilma Rudolph became the first American woman to win three gold medals in a single Olympic Games.

My Olympic fact file

Here are 10 facts about Wilma Rudolph and Cathy Freeman. But in six of the sentences the names have been changed around and the sentence is incorrect. Correct these sentences by changing back the names before you put the 10 facts into your Olympic Fact File.

1. Cathy Freeman is an Aboriginal Australian runner.

2. Wilma Rudolph was born in Australia in 1973.

3. Cathy Freeman caught polio when she was a small child.

4. Wilma Rudolph won a silver medal at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics.

5. Cathy Freeman lit the Olympic flame at the 2000 Sydney Olympics.

6. Wilma Rudolph had to wear a leg brace when she was a child.

7. Cathy Freeman won a bronze Olympic medal at the age of 16.

8. Wilma Rudolph was the first American woman to win three gold medals at a single Olympic Games.

9. Cathy Freeman was a star of the 1960 Rome Olympics.

10. Wilma Rudolph gave up competition running in 2003.

Answers: A. 1. false, 2. false 3. true; My Olympic fact file: 2. Cathy Freeman, 3. Wilma Rudolph, 4. Cathy Freeman, 7. Wilma Rudolph, 9. Wilma Rudolph, 10. Cathy Freeman