To look through the sporting archive that is Australian competition is to see that some of our greatest athletes were Indigenous Australians. It’s remarkable then, that despite competing at every summer Games since their inception in 1896, Indigenous athletes only came to be picked for the Australian team since Tokyo first hosted the Games in 1964, when basketball Michael Ah Matt and boxers Adrian Blair and Francis Roberts made history.
Since then, we’ve seen many Indigenous athletes take to the biggest sporting event in the international calendar, testing their mettle against the best in the world and, more often than not, walking away victorious. Not surprisingly, it’s Cathy Freeman’s 400 metre win at the Sydney 2000 Olympics that remains for many the most memorable moment in Olympic history, one that inspired countless Australians to get into sport, but more importantly showcased the strength and pride of our First Nations people.
With the Tokyo 2020 Olympics just around the corner, attention now turns to those athletes that will soon represent their country. And while it’s always a cause for celebration, this year is particularly poignant as the Tokyo-bound Australian Olympic team will include the largest number of Indigenous athletes in games history. Of the 472 athletes selected, 16 will represent the First Nations people of Australia, competing across 11 sports.
For Matildas star Kyah Simon, competing at the Olympics is a remarkable occasion and one she hopes will inspire others. In an interview with ABC, the Matilda star said she hopes to be “a positive role model for so many young Indigenous kids back home in Australia.” She added, “That really resonated with me on a personal level, because Cathy [Freeman] was my inspiration as a nine-year-old girl, sitting at home in my lounge room watching the Olympic Games back in 2000.”
“To think that potentially I could have that impact on some other young kids…is definitely something I have in the back of my mind. I’m so privileged and proud that I can be one of only a few Indigenous Olympians, but I hope that down the track in 20 years’ time there’s double or triple the amount of Indigenous Olympians representing our country,” she said.
With that in mind, here are the Indigenous female athletes you need to watch at Tokyo 2020.