Freeman legacy fires Simon's Olympic dream

Ahead of taking part in the Matildas first match of Rio 2016, indigenous star Kyah Simon says that her Olympic dream was forged in Sydney 2000 when Cathy Freeman sensationally won gold for Australia in the 400 metres.

Speaking direct from Sao Paolo, where Simon and the Australian women’s football team are preparing for their opening game against Canada on Wednesday, the 25-year-old says she wants to emulate her sports idol.

“Obviously Cathy is a remarkable athlete,” Simon said. “She did great things at the 2000 Olympics and was my childhood hero and role model.

“I guess for me it’s hard to wrap my head around that I’m going to my first Olympics and it’s at the Sydney Olympics where my dream first started.

“I haven’t yet achieved the same status as Cathy, so I can’t quite put myself in the same category as her, but definitely I aspire to be a positive role model for young indigenous girls and boys.  I’m hoping that I can inspire young girls through my sport and obviously through the games coming up.”

In October 2013 Simon tore her ACL that put her out of football for an extended period of time.

After being sidelined for almost 12 months, the skilful attacker returned in 2015 to star for the Matildas at last year’s World Cup where she scored the goal that beat Brazil in the round of 16.

Now, with that injury behind her and over a year of game time under her belt, Simon is ready to show even more in Brazil than she did at the Women’s World Cup in Canada.

It’s obviously been a nice run getting back on the pitch and getting some more game minutes in my legs,” she said.

“We’ve come a long way as a team and I’m definitely feeling like I’m in good physical shape going into the games and I’m also at a good fitness level.

“I definitely think and hope that we can create history in the coming days and definitely feeling like we are in a good space physically and mentally going into the tournament.”

After helping create history by winning Australia’s first knockout game at a World Cup, Simon says confidence is high for even more records to be made at the Olympics.

“There is a strong belief within the group,” she said. “The belief stems from the ability that we have within the group and we’ve been able to show that in previous tournaments.

“This is the Olympics and each team is there vying for a medal. It’s not going to be easy by any means, but I believe if we play to our own potential then we are a really good chance to walk away with a medal.

“There is still a lot of hard work to be done and a lot of games to be won. It’s not going to be an easy road but it’s going to be a great opportunity for us as a national team.”

Con Stamocostas is an Australian football writer. Click here to see more of his work and check out the latest episode of his A-League Snobcast with co-host Rob Toddler.