Cathy Freeman – Australian’s track queen – IELTS Reading Passage 1

Cathy Freeman – Australian’s track queen

A. Runner Cathy Freeman is the first Aborigine, the name given to indigenous Australians, ever to compete in the Olympics, and the first to wave the Aboriginal flag at a sporting event. Freeman lit the Olympic flame at the 2000 Olympics in Sydney, and won a gold medal in the 400 meters at those Games.

B. Freeman’s grandmother was part of the “stolen generation” of Aboriginal people in Australia—from the early 20th century until the 1970s; many Aboriginal children were taken from their parents to be raised in state-run institutions. This practice was intended to remove the children from the poverty, disease, and addiction that plagued many aboriginal people, but it also resulted in tragically broken family ties and loss of ancient cultural traditions. Although Freeman was not taken from her family, she had a difficult childhood. Both her younger sister and her father died when she was young.

C. When Freeman was still a girl; her talent in running was obvious. Her mother, Cecilia, encouraged her to pursue her interest in athletics, and when she was ten, her stepfather told her she could win a gold medal at the Olympics if she trained properly. However, although she had the talent, she was also a member of a minority group that historically had not had access to the same resources that other athletes had. Freeman was one of only a few Aborigines who won a scholarship to a boarding school where she could learn and train.

D. At the age of 15, she competed at the National School Championships, and did well enough to be encouraged to try out for the 1990 Commonwealth Games team. She made the team as a sprinter, and was a member of the 4 x 100-meter relay team, which won gold at the Commonwealth Games. In 1990, she competed in the Australian National Championships, winning the 200 meters, and then ran in the 100, 200, and 4 x 100-meter races at the World Junior Games. During this time, she met Nick Bideau, an Australian track official who would later become her coach, manager, and boyfriend.

E. In 1992, she competed in the 400-meter relay at the Barcelona Olympics, making it to the second qualifying round. She was also a member of the 4 x 100 meter team, which ran in the final but did not win a medal. At the World Junior Championships in 1992, she won a silver medal in the 200 meters. In 1993, she made it to the semi­finals in the 200 meters in the World Championships.

F. In 1994, Freeman won the 200 meters and the 400 meters at the Commonwealth Games in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada. After winning the 400 meters, Freeman ran her victory lap, carrying not the Australian national flag, but the red, black, and yellow Aboriginal flag. She was criticised in the press, and Australian team leader Arthur Tunstall told her she should not display the flag again. Freeman used the publicity she got to publicly discuss what the flag meant to Aboriginal people, explaining its symbolism: red for earth, yellow for sun, and black for skin. Defying Tunstall’s orders, she ran with the flag again after winning the 200 meters.

G. At the 1996 Olympic games in Atlanta, Freeman won a silver medal in the 400 meters. After those Games, she broke off her romantic relationship with Bideau, although he continued as her manager. Freeman won the World Championships in the 400 meters in 1997 and 1998, even though she suffered a heel injury in 1998.

H. In 1999, Freeman met Alexander Bodecker, an American executive for the Nike shoe company, and the two fell in love. As a result, her relationship with Bideau became strained, and she eventually fired him. Freeman and Bodecker were married on September 19, 1999, in San Francisco. Bideau subsequently claimed that she owed him over $2 million in assets from deals he negotiated while he represented her, leading to a long court battle.

I. Freeman was, of course, Australia’s favourite to win a gold medal in the 400 meters at the 2000 Olympics, held in Sydney. Like any athlete, Freeman wanted to win in order to meet her own goals, but she also knew that she was viewed as a representative of the Aboriginal people, and she wanted to win for them. “I could feel the crowd all over me,” she told Mark Shimabukuro in the Sporting News. “I felt the emotion being absorbed into every part of my body.” When she won, with a time of 49.11 seconds, she was so relieved that she dropped to her knees on the track after completing the race.

J. Freeman’s shoes were yellow, black, and red, traditional Aboriginal colours, but after she won, she took them off and ran her victory lap, in traditional Aboriginal style, carrying both the Australian and Aboriginal flags around the track as the crowd cheered. This time, instead of being criticised for carrying the Aboriginal flag around the track; she was widely celebrated by the Australian media and public.

Questions

Questions 1-9

The text has ten paragraphs labelled A–J

Choose the correct heading for sections B–J from the list of headings below.

Write the correct number, i–xii, in boxes 1-9 on your answer sheet. The first one is done for you as an example below.

Paragraph Headings

i.    An Australian sporting icon

ii.   A new love

iii.  Early competition

iv.   Winning isn’t everything

v.    Family support for running

vi.   Her first Olympics

vii.  Adored by her nation

viii. Aboriginal identity on the track

ix.   Winning the top medal at home

x.   Second on the big stage

xi.  A difficult childhood

xii. Losing in Sydney

eg. Paragraph 1: i

Paragraph 21 ……………
Paragraph 32 ……………
Paragraph 43 ……………
Paragraph 54 ……………
Paragraph 65 ……………
Paragraph 76 ……………
Paragraph 87 ……………
Paragraph 98 ……………
Paragraph 10……………
Cathy Freeman – Australian’s track queen

Questions 10-14

Complete the notes below. Choose NO MORE THAN TWO WORDS from the passage for each answer. Write your answers in boxes 10-14 on your answer sheet. 

How Cathy Freeman became a sports star

  • Although she had a hard upbringing she got support from her mother and 10………..
  • She won a 11………..  at a young age to train and study which helped her develop as an athlete.
  • Her first international success was in 1990 at the 12………..  as part of the Australian sprint team.
  • At her second Olympics in 1996 she won a silver medal for coming second in the 13………..
  • In 2000, she finally won a 14………..  at the Sydney Olympics making here one of the most loved sports star in Australia.  

Answers

Questions 1-9

1. Answer: xi

  • Paragraph B is about Freeman’s difficult childhood. 
  • The first part of the paragraph describes what happened to Freeman’s grandmother, and other Aboriginal children.  At the end of the paragraph we learn that:
    • “Although Freeman was not taken from her family, she had a difficult childhood.  Both her younger sister and her father died when she was young”.
  • This is not a difficult question because the answer uses exactly the same words as in the passage, however, students should pay attention and avoid distracting information.
  • The answer is xi.

2. Answer: v

  • Paragraph C mentions some of Freeman’s family members (her mother, her stepfather) and the fact that they encouraged her, because her talent for running was obvious:
    • “Her mother, Cecilia, encouraged her to pursue her interest in athletics, and when she was ten, her stepfather told her she could win a gold medal at the Olympics if she trained properly”.  
  • Therefore, the family supported Freeman’s ambitions. 
    • support = encourage
    • running = athletics
  • The answer is v.

3. Answer: iii

  • After getting into a boarding school where she could train for athletics, Freeman had chance to take part in competitions from the age of 15. Therefore, she was still young, but the paragraph lists the success that she had in several national and international competitions.  These were the first big competitions in which she had taken part, in other words this was her experience of ‘early competition’. 
    •  at the age of 15 ~ early
  • The answer is iii.

4. Answer: vi

  • In this paragraph, the author mentioned the Olympic Games in which Freeman first took part. This was the Olympics in Barcelona in 1992, and she made it to the second qualifying round. “In 1992, she competed in the 400-meter relay at the Barcelona Olympics, making it to the second qualifying round”. Second qualifying round does not mean that she finished in second position in the final, so x is not the answer. The answer is her first Olympics.
  • The answer is vi.

5. Answer: viii

  • Paragraph F is about Freeman carrying the Aboriginal flag when she ran her victory lap in the 1994 Commonwealth Games.  She carried this flag around the athletics track to show her identity as a proud Aborigine.  Therefore, it was her way to emphasize her Aboriginal identity on the track. 
  • The answer is viii.

6. Answer: x

  • In the first sentence of this paragraph, the author mentioned that Freeman won a silver medal, which refers to the second position in the 1996 Olympic games in Atlanta, which is considered as the big stage (the biggest sporting event in the world).
    • “At the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta, Freeman won a silver medal…”
  • Therefore, the answer is second on the big stage (x). 
    • second = silver medal
    • the big stage ~ the Olympic games
  • The answer is x.

7. Answer: ii

  • Paragraph H is about Freeman’s new relationship with Alexander Bodecker:
    • “ In 1999, Freeman met Alexander Bodecker, an American executive for the Nike shoe company, and the two fell in love”.  
  • Her previous romantic relationship had already finished, so this was a ‘new’ love.  Therefore, the answer is a new love (ii).
  • The answer is ii.

8. Answer: ix

  •  Paragraph I is about Freeman’s gold medal in the 2000 Olympics, held in Sydney, Australia, which was her home country. “Freeman was, of course, Australia’s favourite to win a gold medal in the 400 meters at the 2000 Olympics, held in Sydney….When she won…. she was so relieved that she dropped to her knees on the track after completing the race”.The correct answer is wining the top medal at home (ix).
    • top medal = gold medal
  • The answer is ix.

9. Answer: vii

  • In paragraph J, the author  wrote that Freeman:
    • “…ran her victory lap, in traditional Aboriginal style, carrying both the Australian and Aboriginal flags around the track as the crowd cheered.  This time, instead of being criticised for carrying the Aboriginal flag around the track, she was celebrated by the Australian media and public”.
  • “Celebrated” can be considered as “adored” and “the Australian media and public” refers to her nation. The answer is vii – adored by her nation
    • adored = celebrated
  • The answer is vii.

Questions 10-14

10. Answer: stepfather

  • Since we did questions 1 – 9, we know that information about her difficult childhood (= hard upbringing) and family support lie in the first paragraphs. In paragraph C, the author mentioned her mother and her stepfather encouraging her and telling her that she could win a gold medal. That means she got support from her mother and stepfather.
    • upbringing = childhood
  • The answer is stepfather.

11. Answer: Scholarship

  • The only time training is mentioned in this passage about Cathy Freeman is in paragraph C:
    • “Freeman was one of only a few Aborigines who won a scholarship to a boarding school where she could learn and train”.
    • at a young age ~ when she was still a girl
    • study = learn
  • The answer is scholarship.

12. Answer: Commonwealth games

  • Key words: first international success, 1990, Australian sprint team
  • The information we are looking for is a place or a competition. The question is about Freeman’s first international success in 1990 so we should look for “1990” in the passage and it is in paragraph D. 
  • Paying attention there, we can see several games competitions that she took part in, but it needs to be at international level, so it can’t be the National School Championships or Australian National Championships. At the World Junior Games, there is no information of her being part of a team, but at the Commonwealth Games, she was a sprinter, in other words, she was part of the Australian sprint team at the 1990 Commonwealth Games.  She had success, because she :“….was a member of the 4 x 100-meter relay team, which won gold at the Commonwealth Games”.
  • The answer is Commonwealth Games.

13. Answer: 400 meters/ metres/ m

  • Key words: second, Olympics 1996, silver medal
  • We need to find and focus on the paragraph containing information about the Olympics in 1996. It is paragraph G: “At the 1996 Olympic games in Atlanta, Freeman won a silver medal in the 400 meters”.
    • coming second ~ won a silver medal
  • The answer is 400 meters/400 metres/400m.

14. Answer: gold medal

  • Key words: 2000, Sydney Olympics, loved, sports star.
  • We pay attention to paragraphs I and J, which include information about Cathy Freeman at the Sydney Olympics. From the first sentence, we know that she won a gold medal in the 400 meters. Then in paragraph J, the author claimed that was the reason why she was widely celebrated, or adored, or loved by the Australian people.
  • The answer is gold medal.

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