A loss for Freeman after nearly five years

Olympic and World champion Cathy Freeman (Pic. left, Reuters) lost her first 400m race in nearly five years in Sydney, being beaten by more than a second by compatriot Jana Pittman. Freeman had won 25 consecutive races until her showdown with Pittman, the 2002 Manchester Commonwealth Games 400m hurdle gold medallist.

It was 30-year-old Freeman's first defeat over the distance since July 1998 in Oslo, where she competed with an injured foot to finish fourth.

Pittman and Freeman were together over the first 200m of March 22nd race before Pittman pulled away with 150m to run.

Pittman, 20, clocked a qualifying time of 50.43 for the World Championships in August with Freeman second in 51.81 and Rosemary Hayward third in 53.07.

After the race, Freeman said she was only 85 per cent fit and described the loss as the spur she needed in her bid to qualify for the World Championships in Paris.

"I'm impressed. Good running by Jana. It tells me how much more work I have to do," she said. "It's good to have a loss like that. It's been a long time since I've been beaten. It's a good wake-up call."

"Cathy's been my idol for so long. I do feel a little bit guilty," Pittman said. "She's been a good sport about it and gave me a big hug."