James Magnussen was left shattered and humbled after being beaten by the barest of margins in the men's 100m freestyle final at the London Olympics on Wednesday night.
Magnussen, the world champion and hot favourite, had to settle for silver as American Nathan Adrian touched him out by one one-hundredth of a second in a dramatic finish.
"That hurts," Magnussen said as he fought back tears after the race.
"I did my best tonight and it wasn't quite good enough. To lose by that amount stings but I've had a lot of great support the last few days from everyone back in Australia.
"It's been a tough Olympics.
"They say what doesn't kill you makes you stronger so hopefully I'll come out of this a better swimmer but most of all a better person."
Magnussen was bidding to become just the fourth Australian man, and first since Michael Wenden in 1968, to win the premier freestyle sprint at an Olympics.
Photos: Australia's swim team medalists
The fastest qualifier, he was visibly shattered in the pool after clocking 47.53 seconds only to see Adrian post a 47.52 in the lane beside him.
Canadian Brent Hayden (47.80) claimed the bronze medal.
Magnussen had talked a big game since winning the world title in Shanghai last year, where he won in 47.63 seconds.
And he had good reason to after clocking a remarkable 47.10 at Australia's selection trials in March, the fastest swim in a textile suit.
But after a seamless preparation, Magnussen admitted he simply failed to handle the pressure of the big occasion.
He had sleepless night's prior to the men's sprint relay final, where he and his heavily favoured teammates missed out on a medal completely.
And despite an encouraging semi-final swim suggesting he had rediscovered his mojo, he couldn't find the improvement required in the final.
Photos: Olympic cheerleaders
"I guess having such a successful young career I just felt pretty much bullet-proof coming into this Olympics and it's very humbling," he said.
"I've got a lot more respect for guys like Michael Phelps who can come out at an Olympics and back up under pressure.
"It's just a bit of a reality check. My coach said during the week that it's a pretty tough time to learn that you're human."
Magnussen was fifth at the halfway mark of the race but, producing his trademark strong finish, looked to be pulling away from the field.
However Adrian stuck with him and managed to steal victory.
Magnussen did not feel his touch on the wall cost him.
"I got a pretty good touch, maybe thanks to the touch the closeness of the race was a little bit flattering," Magnussen said.
"When you lose by that much you look back and think what could I have done better but I've got no regrets."
Magnussen must now back up for Thursday morning's 50m freestyle heats, while he will also feature in the medley relay on the closing night.