Susie O’Neill has broken down in tears watching her silver medal swim in the 200m butterfly final at the 2000 Sydney Olympics for the first time.
The Aussie swimming legend was the odds-on favourite to claim gold in her pet event at her home Olympics, but was upstaged by 21-year-old American Misty Hyman.
O’Neill was devastated at the time - and those feelings are still raw 19 years later.
Watching a replay of the race for the very first time on Monday, O’Neill broke down in tears and admitted she felt like a failure.
“My default is … my default is I just want to crack a joke,” O’Neill said as the tears flowed on her Brisbane radio show - Nova’s Ash, Kip, Luttsy & Susie.
“I know it’s only a swimming race and I know in my head I didn’t fail, but with that I just see failure.
“I felt like this was my race, home crowd and to come second for me is failure.“
O’Neill and fellow Aussie Petria Thomas had the local crowd hoping for a 1-2 finish, but were relegated to silver and bronze in an unthinkable upset.
“Of course I thought I was going to win, I’m still trying to find reasons even 19 years later,” she said.
“Not in my wildest dreams did I think [Hyman] was a legitimate competitor to me.
“Her time was three seconds slower than what she does. She was not a legitimate competitor at this point.”
O’Neill relieved to finally re-watch race
O’Neill said she felt relieved to have finally watched the race after 19 years.
“I think it’s a relief, I don’t know it’s weird. I felt so much emotion before but I feel like maybe because I’m still the same person,” she said.
“Just because I lost that doesn’t mean I’m that for the rest of my life. I’ve moved on to other things.
“I’m not a failure … bit of a sook though.”
The 46-year-old won 35 Australian titles and eight Olympics medals.
Only Ian Thorpe and Leisel Jones have won more Olympic medals for Australia.
This is heart-wrenching to watch. One of our greatest swimmers, Susie O’Neill, still feels the sting of “failure” because of this race 19 years on.— Jessica Halloran (@JessiHalloran) September 16, 2019
Very brave of her to be so honest. A true insight into the burden and pressures of being an elite athlete. https://t.co/fGXrNE6v05
Watching Susie O'Neill opening up and allowing herself to be seen... really seen, is something you can only admire 🙌 https://t.co/Srp5nsQBu9— Clint Newton (@c_newton11) September 16, 2019
The story of Susie O’Neill is famous in the swimming world. I appreciated this for much more than her story. These are real, relatable, human emotions. https://t.co/QeXGduSWeV— Jessica Hardy (@swimhardy) September 16, 2019
Oh my goodness, this is heartbreaking to watch. Not a failure Susie O’Neill, you’re an absolute champ. https://t.co/2n7RgbEzCn— Rebecca Maddern (@RebeccaMaddern9) September 16, 2019
The pressures of Olympic competition: ‘Madame Butterfly’ Susie O’Neill has a tearful breakdown on live radio over missing gold at the Sydney Olympics...19 years ago. “I am not a loser,” she sobs. Couldn’t agree more Susie https://t.co/qPxA568z5i @AshKipAndLuttsy— Chris Reason (@ChrisReason7) September 16, 2019