Olympic legend Cathy Freeman will always be best known for winning the women's 400 metres at the 2000 Sydney Olympics. The athlete has moved on to motherhood with her 17-month-old daughter, Ruby. Kate Waterhouse chats with the 39-year-old about fitness, her fans and about having a child.
Are you enjoying motherhood?
It's challenging, but it's a joy. I love being with my girl and I love how she affects my husband. I love how she makes people happy. She is an amazing little thing.
Is it everything that you thought it would be?
It's more than I ever thought was possible, actually. I think it's because whilst it's demanding, challenging and you have to be organised, you also have to be quite self-aware. For example, when you know you need to rest, you lean on people, you have to really act on it and really be aware of your fatigue levels and your inner health. I really love how I'm learning about how capable I am.
Is your husband a hands-on father?
He's wonderful. Mind you, I prefer to take control and do everything to the point where it allows him to step in when I actually need him to. I'm really happy being more hands-on than him, but he's a fantastic dad, too; he enjoys being a dad, he loves our little girl and he'll always be there if I need him. If I'm ever away or unwell, he'll do everything.
How did your role as blogger and ambassador for the Coles Baby and Toddler Club come about?
Well, I had a previous association with Coles, and this seemed to be a natural shift with my little girl. The arrival of her and the growth of me personally, becoming a mother, seemed to just be an opportunity that came out of my personal circumstance.
Will you encourage your daughter to follow in your footsteps?
I will encourage my daughter to be true to herself; hopefully I'm setting that example really well for her. In terms of following my footsteps in that regard, yes.
Is fitness still a big part of your life?
Yes, it really is. I was over in New York a few weeks ago with the intent of running my first marathon. Unfortunately, it was cancelled but now we're aiming for another marathon early next year, so you have to be fit.
A marathon is a big commitment, especially soon after having a child.
I think I needed to have that kind of goal because that's how I'm precoded anyway in my previous life, and it's what I'm so familiar with.
Do you still maintain a strict diet, similar to when you were competing, or are you more relaxed now?
I'm definitely a lot more relaxed because the stakes are different. I tend to enjoy more food now, although I do prefer not to eat a lot of bread. I have to watch my sugar intake because I have diabetes, so I think my sugar intake has definitely been monitored daily.
Do you get recognised everywhere you go?
In Australia, yes.
Do you still get a lot of fan mail?
[Yes.] It means a lot to me because I have been retired for [about nine years] and folks are still wanting photographs from my running days … It's good for my ego [laughs].
What is the most frequent request from fans?
Autographs mainly, but sometimes a serious sports fan would ask for an action shot of when I'm in competition. Sometimes it's a lovely letter from a 12-year-old, or sometimes I get a letter from an elderly person just wanting to share their wisdom with me.
It's fantastic that after all these years, people have so much admiration for you.
I think it was just one of those times in our lives where it had such a unifying effect. When our sporting champions win, especially on their own turf, it's very memorable, and people like to revisit that memory.
Do you still have that competitive spirit?
I do for things I'm passionate about, like seeing results achieved for my Cathy Freeman Foundation, but in terms of me personally, no I'm not competitive at all.
Do you hope to have a big family?
I'm enjoying our family unit as it is at the moment. I'm pretty content. Ruby, James and I are just one happy little family.
WE WENT TO The Grounds of Alexandria.
WE ATE Za'atar on toast with avocado, Persian fetta and heirloom tomatoes; slow-cooked lamb with yoghurt, chickpeas, roast pumpkin and sherry vinaigrette.
WE DRANK Mineral water and ginger beer with fresh garden mint.
CATHY WORE Zara pants and Tommy Hilfiger blouse.