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Tokyo Olympics: Tennis star Ashleigh Barty sees the Games as the pinnacle of sport

Ashleigh Barty recalls how watching Cathy Freeman win gold for Australia in 2000 made a lasting impression on her ahead of this summer's Tokyo Olympics; the world No 1 says: "She's been an idol and an icon for so many young indigenous girls and boys all across Australia"

Ashleigh Barty and Cathy Freeman - Olympics
Image: Ashleigh Barty has been inspired by Cathy Freeman's gold-winning sprint at the Sydney Olympics in 2000

World No 1 Ashleigh Barty says she expects the Tokyo Olympics experience to be "spine-tingling" after happy memories of watching Cathy Freeman win gold for Australia in 2000.

Barty was not even five when Freeman, wearing a green, white and gold bodysuit, won the 400m gold medal at the Sydney Olympics.

The indigenous track star made a lasting impression on her, with Barty, the 2019 French Open champion, excited to compete at this year's Games in July after the event was postponed by a year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

WTA Tour - Stuttgart, Singles, Women, Semifinals in the Porsche Arena. A. Barty (Australia) - J. Switolina (Ukraine). Ashleigh Barty celebrates after her victory. Photo by: Marijan Murat/picture-alliance/dpa/AP Images
Image: Barty is preparing for the French Open at Roland Garros where she won her maiden Grand Slam in 2019

Barty says there is no greater honour than representing your country and 20 years on from watching Freeman sprint to glory, she sees the Olympic Games as the summit of sport.

"The green and gold for me is always the pinnacle," Barty told the official Olympics website. "I've had a very small taste of it, but I think the Olympics is the pinnacle of every sport.

"It's a remarkable place to be able to test yourself against the best in the world. All of the best athletes in the world come together in one place, which is quite special.

"And I think the experience will be spine-tingling."

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Recalling Freeman's sensational victory in 49.13 seconds to make history, the moment made a lasting impression on Barty.

"I remember her outfit and, not really knowing a lot [else] of what was happening being such a youngster," said Barty.

"And I think every time you see that outfit now in Australia it's iconic and everyone knows exactly the purpose of it. It's a really, really special memory to be etched in my brain."

"She's been an idol for me growing up," Barty added. "She's been an idol and an icon for so many young indigenous girls and boys all across Australia.

"To be able to connect with her and actually have a relationship with her personally has been amazing. I think everyone knows and remembers where they were when she won that incredible final."

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