Thursday, 27 October 2011

The toughest crowd

A familiar face loomed out of the pages of yesterday’s London Evening Standard. At first, I couldn’t place her, but then I read the caption: Suzie O’Neill, hides her pain after getting silver in Sydney. Of course! Suzie O’Neill the swimmer was Australia’s equivalent of London’s Jessica Ennis or Chris Hoy. She had the hopes of the nation piled high on her shoulders and in her star event, the 200 metres butterfly, she was cruelly pipped at the post by American Misty Hyman.

She’s now in town talking to London’s athletes about the pressure of performing at a Home Games. For me, the hardest part of her story was the fact it has taken 10 years for her to properly process her loss. She was devastated and couldn’t even look at any footage surrounding the Games for many years.

It’s an interesting read, particularly when you realise how much extra energy she spent doing things like signing autographs and talking to people wherever she went. This sounds simple, but actually, for a focused athlete, it must be trying at times. All in all, Suzie’s interview outlines just how precious the chance to compete at an Olympics is for athletes. And while the rest of us can only begin to imagine what they go through to get there, it’s often what happens afterwards that gives us their full story.

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