First published on 16 Jul 2008. Updated on 16 Aug 2008.
Who did Cathy Freeman ring for advice when she was considering taking the Aboriginal flag into the stadium if she won gold at the Sydney Olympics in 2000?
Peter Norman, an athlete whose triumph's history had forgotten. Norman wasn't even invited to the Opening Ceremony for the 2000 Olympics despite his silver medal win in 1968 at the Mexico City Olympics.
Did he tell Freeman that politics and sport don't mix? Did he tell her to keep her opinions to herself, even though he had learned from bitter experience the perils of speaking up?
No. As his nephew film-maker Matt Norman remembers it, "Peter told Cathy that she was lucky enough to belong to two cultures. He said whatever she chose to do would not be a protest but a celebration. If she wanted to represent the Aboriginal flag and the official Aussie flag, then she mustn't care what people think."
As we know, Freeman did take the Aboriginal flag to the podium when she won gold, and most Aussies accepted her right to do so. Her career certainly didn't suffer the way Peter Norman's did after Mexico in 1968.
"Before he died, in 2006, I promised Peter I'd restore his achievements to the place in history they deserve," says Norman of his all but forgotten uncle. It took six years, and Norman went broke, lost his home, and shot 72 hours of footage to make Salute, but his passionate drive to tell his uncle's story never wavered. It's a story he feels is extra pertinent as the Beijing Olympics draw near.
"Peter would be horrified if he saw all these people dying in Tibet," he says, "because the same thing happened in Mexico in '68 when he was there and 2000 students who were protesting the games, were killed."
The Olympic athletes found out about the student massacre, despite the authorities attempts to keep the news from them, and according to Norman and his uncle, they were all deeply affected by it.
"Athletes gather from all around the world, and they talk and hang out together, " Norman explains. "That's what Olympics are about. They feel they represent not just countries, but hopes and ideals."
Norman knew that two African American runners, Tommie Smith and John Carlos, planned to make a black solidarity salute if they won medals in the Mexico Games. At the time civil rights were an incendiary topic in America, and Martin Luther King had recently been assassinated.
Norman went out to receive his silver wearing a badge for The Olympic Project for Human Rights. And when the two other winners made the Black Power salute, he was standing with them. Asked afterwards what he felt about their gesture, Norman went on record to say he opposed his government's White Australia policy.
The repercussions for all three athletes were severe. Norman's career never recovered. He was not picked for the Munich Olympics team, even though he was the fastest white runner in the world (a racist term he reckoned).
He qualified 15 times for the 100m, and five times for the 200m in 1971 and '72, but wasn't picked for the Olympic track team for the 1972 Summer Olympics. He was criticised by the media, and socially ostracised.
Did Norman ever regret the salute which cost him his dreams? Never.
"Peter had very strong feelings about injustice, and he passed that on to me," says Norman, now working with Amnesty International on his next documentary.
"Peter was more than a father to me," he adds. "He was the one person I could talk to about anything when I was growing up, and he never yelled at me if I made a mistake."
Peter Norman certainly wasn't happy when China won the Games, given its human rights record, and Matt is appalled by the censorship he sees surrounding them now.
"The Australian Olympic Committee is the same now as it was then," he says. "They're so nervous that one of the athletes will wear a Free Tibet t-shirt, that we won't take part in the opening ceremony. Is this what the Olympics are about? Trying to make people shut up?"
Fortunately for Norman, the 2008 Games will also represent a happier milestone. "When I started making this film no one was interested, and it was very frustrating" he says.
"But now it's been picked up by a big film company (Paramount) and all the Normans have seen it and wept, it's been life changing for me. I've told Peter's story. And his record still hasn't been broken!"