Tracey Freeman (1948 – 5 October 2023) was a remarkable Australian Paralympic athlete who left an indelible mark in the world of sports, securing ten medals across two Paralympics.
Personal Life: Born in 1948, Tracey’s life took a challenging turn at the age of two in 1951 when she contracted polio, resulting in quadriplegia. Growing up in Mount Isa, Queensland, she was enrolled at the Crippled Children’s Centre in Redfern, Sydney. It was during her time at the Mt Wilga Rehabilitation Centre that she discovered her love for sports, engaging in activities like archery, field events, and swimming. After moving back to Queensland with her family, she spent some time at the Kingsholm Rehabilitation Centre in Brisbane. A significant event in her personal life was her marriage just before her participation in the 1972 Heidelberg Paralympics. Sadly, Freeman passed away on 5 October 2023.
Career: Freeman’s sporting prowess came into the limelight during the National Wheelchair Games in Sydney, where she dominated every event she participated in. She set Australian records in discus, javelin, shot put, and the 60 m sprint. Her exceptional performance ensured her selection for the 1972 Heidelberg Paralympics. At the event, Freeman clinched three gold medals, setting world records in the Women’s Discus 1B, Women’s Javelin 1B, and Women’s Shot Put 1B events. Additionally, she secured two silver medals, making her one of the most successful athletes at the games.
Following this, at the 1973 National Wheelchair Games in Adelaide, she defended her national titles and clinched a gold medal in the wheelchair slalom. Her winning streak continued at the 1974 Commonwealth Paraplegic Games in Dunedin and the first FESPIC Games in Japan. However, her aspirations to compete in the 1980 Arnhem Paralympics were cut short due to a car accident. Undeterred, Freeman made a commendable comeback in the 1990s, setting more national records and winning medals before finally retiring in 1996.
Recognition: For her unparalleled contributions to sports, Freeman received numerous accolades. In 1976, she became the first athlete with a disability to be honored with The Courier-Mail Sportswoman of the Year award. The turn of the millennium saw her being awarded the Australian Sports Medal in 2000. Further cementing her legacy, Freeman was inducted into the Australian Paralympic Hall of Fame in December 2016.
Tracey Freeman’s life and achievements stand as a testament to resilience, determination, and the indomitable spirit of an athlete.