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Susie O’Neill in tears watching 2000 Olympic butterfly final for first time

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Australian swimming legend Susie O’Neill broke down in tears before watching the full 2000 Olympic 200m butterfly final for the first time on Monday.

O’Neill, then the world-record holder known across the country as “Madame Butterfly,” was relegated to silver by American Misty Hyman in one of the most seismic upsets of the entire Sydney Games.

She was a guest on an Australia radio show on Monday when she sat down to watch the race.

“I’m already having a physical reaction,” she said while looking at an image of herself in the ready room from 19 years ago. “I’m feeling emotional. Isn’t it weird? My default is one of um … [starts crying] … my default is I just want to crack a joke. 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 was the defending Olympic champion, had not lost a major 200m fly since before the Atlanta Games and, at Australia’s Olympic Trials, took down an 18-year-old world record in the event, the oldest on the swimming books.

The day before the 200m fly final, O’Neill won the 200m freestyle, “an event I didn’t care about,” she said. O’Neill said she didn’t think she was beatable in the 200m fly.

“I’m a nervous competitor, but it’s the worst nerves I’ve ever felt,” she said. “Maybe I was too arrogant. I’m not sure. Maybe I’d lost too much energy from not sleeping night after night.”

Hyman was the world bronze medalist but came into the Olympics with a personal best that was 3.46 seconds slower than O’Neill’s world record.

“Not in my wildest dreams what I thought was a legitimate competitor to me,” O’Neill said Monday. “She was a nothing to me.”

Yet O’Neill trailed at every turn. Hyman won in 2:05.88, the second-fastest 200m fly in history and a personal best by 1.99 seconds. O’Neill finished seventh tenths back.

“I’m still trying to find reasons, even 19 years later,” O’Neill said, watching the race. “I didn’t swim much slower than my best, so in my head, again, I should say, well, I did as well as I could have.”

It would be the last major individual race of her career. O’Neill retired two months after the Sydney Games.

“I’ve moved on to other things,” O’Neill said after watching the race Monday, still in tears. “I’m not a failure.”

Australia’s female swimming star of the last several years, Cate Campbell, said watching the footage of O’Neill on Monday was “almost like looking in a mirror,” according to the Sydney Morning Herald. Campbell broke the 100m free world record one month before the 2016 Olympics, then finished sixth in Rio.

“What was really interesting was that the fear of watching it was worse than actually watching it [for O’Neill],” Campbell said, according to the newspaper. “You can see the emotional scars and the pain that leaves on you.

“All of the things she had done to try and cope, I had done as well. You want to fend it off. You don’t want to face it head on. When we [athletes]fail, we feel it much more deeply than anyone ever could. I hope that people will learn to be kinder from seeing more reactions like this.”

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Leanne Smith leads U.S. gold medalists at para swim worlds

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Leanne Smith has never competed at a Paralympics. Came into this week’s world championships with zero world medals. But she leaves London with three individual golds, most for any American, one year before the Tokyo Games.

Smith, 21, won the 150m individual medley, 50m breaststroke and 100m freestyle in her classification, all in American record times. The last two titles came on the final day of the seven-day meet on Sunday.

Smith, diagnosed with a rare neurological muscle disease called dystonia in January 2012, began swimming in 2013. By 2017, she broke a world record and then debuted at the world championships with a best individual finish of sixth.

The U.S. finished with 35 total medals and 14 golds, ranking sixth in the overall standings. Ukraine, usually strong at the Paralympics, led the way with 55 medals. Full results are here.

Jessica Long, the second-most-decorated U.S. Paralympian in history with 23 medals, earned six this week — five silvers and a bronze — to give her 52 career world championships medals.

Two-time Paralympian Mallory Weggemann earned two golds this week, giving her 15 world titles in three appearances (her others being in 2009 and 2010).

She won 50m titles in the butterfly and freestyle. Weggemann won a 2012 Paralympic 50m free title but was fortunate just to make it back for Rio after a 2014 accident that she said was harder to come back from than her teenage paralysis. She left Rio with no medals but a resolve to return for a third Games in Tokyo.

“I’m two seconds away from bursting into tears,” Weggemann said after winning the first of her two golds in the 50m fly, according to U.S. Paralympics. “I had a really rough go these past three years since Rio, so to finally be back after busting my butt to be here, and to be here in London of all places, is absolutely incredible.”

Fellow Rio Paralympians McKenzie Coan and Robert Griswold added two golds a piece.

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MORE: Five storylines to watch for Tokyo Paralympics

Michael, Nicole Phelps welcome third baby boy

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The Phelps family is one boy short of a relay team.

Nicole Phelps gave birth to their third boy, Maverick Nicolas Phelps, on Monday, according to her Instagram.

“He instantly has stolen all of our hearts and keeps me an ecstatic mommy of boys,” was posted. “I can’t wait to walk this journey surrounded by my men.”

No Olympian in history has had the first name of any of Phelps’ sons — Boomer (born May 5, 2016), Beckett (born Feb. 12, 2018) and now Maverick.

“So happy to welcome mavericknphelps to the world!” was tweeted from the account of Phelps’ longtime coach, Bob Bowman. “We’re working on a relay!”

Maverick’s Instagram had 4,000 followers less than a half-hour after Nicole tweeted the news. Boomer, who became a sensation during the Rio Olympics, has 679,000 followers. Beckett has 66,000 followers.

Michael Phelps, now 34, retired for the second time after his fifth Olympics in Rio with a record 28 medals and 23 golds. He has said he will not come back but has stayed in shape, taking up Peloton.

MORE: Dana Vollmer retires from swimming

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