Cathy Freeman was not the first Indigenous athlete to win an Olympic medal. That honour went to an Australian swimmer in 1992.
Australia has been represented by 51 Indigenous athletes at the Summer Olympic Games. The Tokyo Games in 1964 was the first with Michael Ah Matt representing in Basketball, and Adrian Blair and Francis Roberts in Boxing.
In 1992 at Barcelona, Samantha Riley became the first female Indigenous Olympian and at these Games she became Australia’s first Indigenous competitor to win an Olympic medal, when she won bronze in the 100m breaststroke. Nova Peris-Kneebone was the first gold medallist as part of the women’s hockey team in Atlanta in 1996.
A total of 12 medals have been won by the following eight (8) Indigenous athletes:
- Samantha Riley (1992 & 1996- bronze; 1996- silver, swimming)
- Cathy Freeman (1996- silver; 2000- gold, athletics)
- Baeden Choppy (1996- bronze, hockey)
- Nova Peris-Kneebone (1996- gold, hockey)
- Stacey Porter (2004- silver; 2008- bronze, softball)
- Desmond Abbott (2008- bronze, hockey)
- Rohanne Cox (2008- silver, basketball)
- Joel Carroll (2012 - bronze, hockey)
Women dominate Indigenous Medals
Of the 51 indigenous athletes to represent Australia at the Olympic Games, 38 are men and 13 are women. But between them the women have won nine (9) out of Australia’s 12 Indigenous medals. All female Indigenous competitors are listed below.
- Samantha Riley (1992 & 1996 - bronze; 1996 - silver, swimming)
- Cathy Freeman (1992, 1996 silver; 2000- gold, athletics)
- Nova Peris-Kneebone (1996 - hockey gold, 2000 athletics)
- Bridgette Starr (2000 - football)
- Stacey Porter (2004 - silver; 2008 - bronze, softball)
- Rohanne Cox (2008 - silver, basketball)
- Beki Lee (2012 - athletics)
- Brook Peris (2016 - hockey)
- Mariah Williams (2016 - hockey)
- Kyah Simon (2016 - football)
- Lydia Williams (2016 - football)
- Taliqua Clancy (2016 - beach volleyball)
- Leilani Mitchell (2016 - Basketball)
Boxing is the sport with the greatest representation of athletes (19), followed by Athletics (7), Basketball (5), Football (5) and Hockey (5).
Cathy Freeman is the most successful with gold at Sydney 2000 and silver at Atlanta 1996 in the 400m. She is also the only Indigenous athlete to have competed at three Games.
Olympic Education Indigenous Partnerships
The AOC supports Australian indigenous communities through its Olympic education program. Learn about the organisations where partnerships are being developed here>>>