Paris Olympics: Phil Sesemann – the doctor turned marathon runner awaits ‘dream’ debut

Sky Sports spoke to Team GB marathon runner and former doctor Phil Sesemann, who has been on a remarkable journey to achieve his Olympic dream.

Last Updated: 20/05/24 11:31am


When Phil Sesemann outsprinted Sir Mo Farah at the London Marathon in 2023, the junior doctor who combined his love for running with his NHS shifts knew he had a decision to make.

“I liked being a doctor but I wouldn’t say it was ever truly my passion, it was something that I was guided towards but it’s a really difficult job.” the Leeds-based runner told Sky Sports, having made the decision to solely focus on running.

“Fortunately, it got to the point where the running was going well enough that I felt it was worth going all in and giving it a shot.”

Now Sesemann is just a few short months away from competing at the Olympics in Paris. The gamble, clearly, paid off.

The former junior NHS doctor, 31, started his running career on the track competing for Blackheath and Bromley Athletic Club from 2010 to 2020 before making the transition to marathon distance, finding more passion and excitement for the road.

“My coach always saw some potential in it and I found that I was enjoying running longer distances and training weeks in terms of volume.

“That was what motivated and excited me rather than just short distances and speed work on the track.”

Kipchoge and Haile are the names of two of the greatest long-distance runners of all time, but for Sesemann they are his canine training partners who became a key part of his marathon preparation when at home in Leeds.

Phil Sesemann reveals the inspiration behind naming his dogs after long-distance running greats ‘Haile’ Gebrselassie and Eluid ‘Kipchoge’

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Phil Sesemann reveals the inspiration behind naming his dogs after long-distance running greats ‘Haile’ Gebrselassie and Eluid ‘Kipchoge’

Phil Sesemann reveals the inspiration behind naming his dogs after long-distance running greats ‘Haile’ Gebrselassie and Eluid ‘Kipchoge’

“I was always going to have running dogs after never having dogs when I was growing up, and Kipchoge shortens to ‘Kip’ quite nicely which got the name over the line with my girlfriend,” he said.

“I am quite fortunate to have the two dogs when going out training on my own to take with me and keep me entertained, which helps me balance the seriousness of training with a laid back attitude.”

The balance of training with animals and humans allowed Sesemann to see running as his passion instead of a job, and helped him prepare for his marathon debut which he made in London in 2021.

Phil Sesemann crosses the finish line during the Virgin Money London Marathon in 2021

Phil Sesemann crosses the finish line during the Virgin Money London Marathon in 2021

This was the first step on his journey to the Paris Olympics, and he marked his 29th birthday in style by finishing seventh as the first Brit over the finish line.

Two years later on the same course, he would catapult himself into the public eye outkicking Sir Mo Farah on his final marathon appearance in an epic sprint finish to the line. “It definitely was a race I went into with a lot of nerves because I knew training had gone well, but in recent races I had not shown great form,” he said.

Team GB marathon runner Phil Sesemann says outkicking Sir Mo Farah in a sprint finish at the London Marathon in 2023 was quite a moment for him and a big step up in performance

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Team GB marathon runner Phil Sesemann says outkicking Sir Mo Farah in a sprint finish at the London Marathon in 2023 was quite a moment for him and a big step up in performance

Team GB marathon runner Phil Sesemann says outkicking Sir Mo Farah in a sprint finish at the London Marathon in 2023 was quite a moment for him and a big step up in performance

“I chased him down for the final few miles and then overhauling him in the final straight was obviously a big highlight for me.”

The realisation that he could compete with the best after defeating an Olympic great in that way convinced Sesemann to ultimately give up his medical licence a few months later so he could put his full attention into racing and training.

“It was definitely stressful mentally making that decision,” he said. “But it has been a massive relief and I haven’t looked back and questioned whether it was the right thing to do.”

Phil Sesemann competing against Sir Mo Farah at the 2023 edition of the Big Half in London

Phil Sesemann competing against Sir Mo Farah at the 2023 edition of the Big Half in London

Now the possibility of qualifying for his first Olympics was at the forefront of his mind and the Valencia Marathon in December provided him with the first opportunity to do so.

Sesemann ran a personal best of 2:08:48 along the fast streets of Spain becoming the eighth quickest Brit of all time, but still finished just 38 seconds outside of the Olympic qualifying time required.

Focused on his next opportunity, a month of altitude training in Kenya was the next step as he looked to find that extra bit of performance but feelings of self doubt were starting to kick in.

Phil Sesemann training at altitude in Kenya as he prepares for the Seville Marathon

Phil Sesemann training at altitude in Kenya as he prepares for the Seville Marathon

“My coach and training partners constantly reminded me how close I have been and that the altitude training would take me over the line and get me to Paris,” Sesemann reflects.

The Seville Marathon on February 18, a date that will live long in the memory of Sesemann as he faced his last chance to qualify for the Olympics.

Three months after the heartbreak of Valencia and 10 months of pushing his body to the absolute limit later, he crossed the line in 2:08:04 – finishing six seconds inside the qualifying time. His lifelong dream of becoming an Olympian had finally been achieved.

“It’s really difficult to actually describe it and I know that sounds cliché but I almost immediately fell onto the floor and felt quite emotional,” he said.

“I worked really hard and took some risks that paid off so to qualify and to represent Great Britain knowing how proud my family and friends are is huge for me.”

Phil Sesemann reminisces on the 'overwhelming' feeling of crossing the finish line at the Seville Marathon and realising he had qualified for his first Olympics in Paris

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Phil Sesemann reminisces on the ‘overwhelming’ feeling of crossing the finish line at the Seville Marathon and realising he had qualified for his first Olympics in Paris

Phil Sesemann reminisces on the ‘overwhelming’ feeling of crossing the finish line at the Seville Marathon and realising he had qualified for his first Olympics in Paris

Paris is now on the horizon as he prepares for his Olympic debut and biggest race yet with the knowledge that all the hard work and mental challenges he faced along the way were worth it.

“I’m looking forward to just being on that start line and soaking that all in knowing that I prepared as best as I possibly can and I actually belong here.

“There is definitely some kind of fear thinking of the big hills and heat in Paris but also looking at that as an opportunity to be better prepared and finish quite a lot higher up than my ranking suggests that I will do.”



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#Paris #Olympics #Phil #Sesemann #doctor #turned #marathon #runner #awaits #dream #debut

‘I’m gonna be homeless’: How an Aussie boxer rose from the depths of despair to booking a ticket to the Olympics

Australian boxer Marissa Williamson-Pohlman.()

From on the brink of homelessness to booking a ticket to the Olympics, Marissa Williamson-Pohlman has had to fight tooth and nail for everything she has.

It’s December 2023, and Marissa Williamson-Pohlman is seated across from me in front of a ceiling-high Christmas tree at her house in inner Naarm/Melbourne.

Packed to the brim with decorations, and with presents lining the floor beneath it, the tree is hard to miss.

“We take Christmas very seriously in this weird, blended family,” Williamson-Pohlman says.

“Mum goes hammer and tong for it.”

“I think it’s important,” Williamson-Pohlman’s adoptive mother says.

“It reflects the values of this family. Abject poverty? Don’t know her anymore. This six foot Christmas tree won’t do.”

By Williamson-Pohlman’s own admission, the last three years have signalled a dramatic turnaround in both their personal and boxing life.

(Williamson-Pohlman, who identifies as a queer Blak woman, uses she/they pronouns, and asks me to mix them up throughout the article).

In November last year, she became the first Aboriginal woman to qualify for the Australian Olympic boxing team, due to compete in Paris in July.

Earlier in 2023, the Ngarrindjeri woman made history again as the first to win the coveted Arthur Tunstall trophy for Australia’s best amateur boxer.

After a tumultuous upbringing, and years of mental health struggles, Williamson-Pohlman can scarcely believe how far they’ve come.

This is the story of how a period of much-needed stability turned her life around.

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‘Hey, I’m going to be homeless’

Marissa Williamson (without the Pohlman) was born one of six kids, and describes her biological mother as “mentally unwell”.

“She was self-medicating with drugs and extremely violent,” they say.

By age 13, Williamson-Pohlman was fully ensconced in the foster system.

Over a five-year period, she went through 16 placements, before becoming homeless during the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic.

At the time, Williamson-Pohlman was training out of a gym in Hoppers Crossing, and ended up living above it.

But without a job, they couldn’t afford to pay rent, or eat. Williamson-Pohlman, who normally fights at 66kg, weighed just 57kg.

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Riss warms up in 2019 before a fight. 
Riss posted this photo to announce their move to the Collingwood gym.
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Announced as the winner of their fight, Riss breaks down in a moment they describe as ‘one of the lowest places I’ve been mentally in my life’.()

The gym, which had shut down because of lockdowns, was also getting broken into on multiple occasions.

“[The gym] was an awful place to be,” she recalls.

“There’s a massive Muslim community in Hoppers Crossing, and families were just leaving me food or putting money in my shoes.

“I was stuck in a hard place. I was like, ‘I’ve got literally no contacts, no immediate family, no friends. I’m legitimately f***ed.'”

It was then Williamson-Pohlman picked up the phone to call the person they now call Mum.

The two women had met through the Victorian Aboriginal Child Protection Agency, and later re-connected on social media.

“She took my call straight away,” Willimson-Pohlman says.

“I was like, ‘hey, I’m gonna be homeless’.

“I had like $14 worth of coins, and I just put them into my car and drove to her house. She took me in, and I sort of never left.”

It was then ‘Riss’ decided to take the surname Pohlman, in honour of their adoptive Mum.

“That was three years ago, and the rest is history.”

‘I’d get into fights about literally anything’

Williamson-Pohlman never aspired to be a boxer, which is not to say she wasn’t accustomed to fighting.

They grew up on Wadawurrung country, near Geelong, but due to the ever-changing nature of foster placements, was forced to swap schools regularly.

One particular move, from Manor Lakes to Lara, separated Williamson-Pohlman from a number of good friends.

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Riss used to find herself in fights at school, over ‘literally anything’.()

She begged the school principal to let her come back, but he was reluctant, citing her history of getting into fights.

“I remember him saying ‘I don’t want a violent person in the school,'” Williamson-Pohlman recalls.

He agreed to let Williamson-Pohlman return on a behavioural contract with two conditions: they were to maintain perfect attendance, and not get into any more fights.

Asked what the fights were about, Williamson-Pohlman laughs, before replying: “literally anything”.

The principal also suggested she take up football, as a way to let off some steam, which led to her training with the Geelong Falcons, before being accepted into the state squad.

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Riss playing footy in the middle of 2018.
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A school principal suggested football as a way to blow off some steam.
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Riss said she threw herself into sport and study to keep her out of trouble.()

“I just threw myself into sport and study, because it kept me out of the house and out of trouble, when I easily could’ve dabbled in something else,” they say.

Boxing came into Williamson-Pohlman’s life around the same time. She qualified for a state title, but got into trouble at school in the lead-up, with the principal pulling her out of the fight as a result.

Realising how much they wanted to box, Williamson-Pohlman committed to “staying on track”, accepting an offer to join a boxing tour in New Zealand/Aotearoa, and quitting football.

Getting pulled out of the state title, she says, “taught me life skills”.

“I really had to pull my head in … so I hung up the boots and never looked back,” she says.

Getting their life on track wasn’t a simple case of discipline, however.

“In boxing, you’re not fighting,” she explains.

“It’s about training yourself to stay calm. You’re in a pressure cooker and someone’s trying to knock your head off.

“Your opponent knows how to fight, so you can’t just bully them.

“I was really surprised by the art of it.”

They also found it was impossible to separate boxing from life outside the ring.

The art of staying calm in a fight
The art of staying calm in a fight has been an important lesson to learn.()

“I would run out of adrenaline after the first round of a fight,” she says.

“Basically you’re having a trauma response in the ring, and you really wanna knock your opponent out, but you have to stay really calm.

“I had to learn to train my fight, flight or freeze response.”

Mastering her trauma response, she says, has been a combination of finding the right coach and “tonnes of therapy”.

“I’ve seen a psychologist for almost four years now,” they say.

“And now I’m a massive mental health advocate. I honestly wouldn’t be able to be the person I am today without doing all the work I have, and also being medicated.”

Williamson-Pohlman’s coach, Kel Bryant, has been pivotal in her most recent successes.

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Bryant’s first encounter with Williamson-Pohlman came when he attended a day of competition boxing with one of his fighters.

As Bryant went to leave, a coachless Williamson-Pohlman entered the ring to face a much older and more experienced opponent.

“This girl came rushing past me at the doorway to the gym and nearly knocked me over,” he recalls.

“There was just something about her. A bit of an energy there.”

Bryant decided to stay and watch the fight. Despite Williamson-Pohlman getting “badly beaten”, he turned to his assistant coach and declared that he would like to coach them.

“He said, ‘what for?’ She just lost,” Bryant says.

“I said, ‘Yeah but she never gave in. She doesn’t know how to fight; wouldn’t have a clue. But she kept going. I reckon I could make a champion out of her.'”

As it happens, Bryant, who served in the military for 44 years (including 24 years as a physical trainer) has a knack for producing champions.

His gym — the not-for-profit Collingwood Youth Boxing Club — boasts 17 national titles, more than any other gym in Australia.

It’s an incredible feat given the space, when Bryant first encountered it, was decrepit, and due to be demolished.

“The floorboards were rotten,” he says.

“The ring was on a slant, the walls had been kicked in, and there were syringes everywhere. I thought, ‘it’s better than nothing.'”

As Bryant tells it, a couple of drug addicts were using the side entrance to inject. He moved them on, but invited them to come back and box once he’d cleaned the place up.

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Coach Kel Bryant has been pivotal in helping Riss make the most out of their talents.()

Bryant, who grew up in commission housing in Sydney, says he wanted it to be a place for “anybody”.

“I mostly trained people from the high rise [commission houses]. People from Richmond and Collingwood. Lots of African and Vietnamese kids,” he says.

The gym, as he puts it, gave both him and his charges a sense of belonging.

“The army saved me [from] going down the wrong road,” he says.

“A lot of my friends, it was the same old story, they’d all gone down a bad road and died of drug overdoses.

“Boxing then gave me a way to inject myself back into the civilian world.”

‘He never gave up on me’

Several weeks after watching Williamson-Pohlman get beaten in the ring, Bryant received a call about a boxer looking for a coach. The caller thought he’d be a good fit.

Hoping to retire from coaching, he says he accepted against his better judgement, not realising the boxer was Riss.

As Williamson-Pohlman tells it, many had warned Bryant not to take them on.

“People were calling him up being like, ‘don’t take her, she’s trouble.’ And I was,” they say.

“But he’s a stubborn arsehole. He was basically like, you’re telling me not to [coach her], so I’m gonna.”

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Bryant accepted the coaching role despite his ‘better judgement’.
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The professional relationship has helped Riss reach the top of their game.
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Out of the ring, Riss describes Bryant as a father figure.()

According to Bryant, the two hit it off immediately, which is not to say it was all smooth sailing.

“To be honest we’ve had a couple of blues where she’s probably been a bit of a bitch,” he says.

One of those incidents led to Bryant temporarily kicking Williamson-Pohlman out of the gym, before eventually welcoming her back.

Asked how they make it work, Bryant says he can relate.

“I was probably a bit like that myself,” he says.

“I was probably worse than her, actually.”

“I think he understood me on a deeper level”, Williamson-Pohlman says.

“And he never gave up on me.”

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Bryant has been there Riss through the toughest times as they climbed the mountain to the Olympics.()

Indeed, Bryant has been by Williamson-Pohlman’s side during the most gruelling periods.

This includes rushing to her aid after a “really bad” suicide attempt during COVID-19 lockdowns.

Williamson-Pohlman says they attempted suicide every year from age 13-19, and were in a particularly bad headspace after the end of an abusive relationship.

“The person I called to pick me up was Kel [Bryant],” she says.

“I’ve never seen anyone look so scared. He was like: ‘something’s got to change.'”

Bryant suggested Williamson-Pohlman, who was staying on their adoptive Mum’s couch at the time, move out on their own.

She cites it as a game-changer.

“It was so peaceful,” they reflect.

“I just felt like I had a space where I could think through everything, unpack and evolve.

“The solitude that you gain from being by yourself for the first time in your life, and having a really safe environment that’s yours [is massive].”

Conveniently, the apartment was situated close to Bryant’s gym in Collingwood. At first, he didn’t ask Williamson-Pohlman to set any boxing goals.

“It was just our goal to meet every day for coffee,” she says.

“So we did. And we developed this really strong bond. He’s like a father to me.”

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Moving into their own space was an important moment for Riss. ()

It’s a sentiment Bryant reciprocates.

“It was a real flourishing point,” he says.

“We’d talk about anything and everything. Not just boxing. And we became closer and closer.

“She’s like a daughter to me. I worry about her. She’s had more friction than a second hand dart board.”

‘The biggest ‘f*** you’

While living alone was an important step for Williamson-Pohlman, they have since moved back into their adoptive Mum’s house.

It’s the first time since age nine that she has lived with family.

“It’s just been a wonderful year, learning how to be a daughter,” they say.

During this period, she has returned to spend time on Ngarrindjeri country, and built strong ties with Yidinji (through their adoptive Mum) and Quandamooka mob, through Auntie LJ, one of her “favourite people in the world”.

Williamson-Pohlman has also taken on a role in the Department of Premier and Cabinet, in heritage policy at First Peoples State Relations.

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“It’s hard work being an Aboriginal person in government right now.”
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Riss has built strong ties with the Yidinji (and Quandamooka mobs.
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Riss became the first woman to win the Arthur Tunstall award.()

“It’s hard work being an Aboriginal person in government right now,” they say, reflecting on the result of the 2023 Voice referendum.

“I had mixed emotions about [the referendum]. Like, it never should have been done without consent in the first place, but obviously it sucks knowing most of the ‘no’ votes are racist.”

In the lead-up to the referendum, Williamson-Pohlman was simultaneously battling systemic racism in her chosen sport.

One of their crowning achievements, becoming the first woman to win the Arthur Tunstall award, was marred by Tunstall’s history of racism and sexism.

In 2000, as chef de mission of the Australian team, Tunstall reprimanded Cathy Freeman for choosing to carry the Aboriginal flag on her victory lap at the Sydney Olympics.

He was also ‘totally opposed’ to women’s boxing, famously stating that ‘a woman is a petite person, not to be knocked about’.

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Riss said there was some satisfaction in winning the Arthur Tunstall award, despite his history of sexism and racism.()

When asked how she felt about receiving the award, Williamson-Pohlman smiles wryly.

“To be the first one to win it, to be queer, be Blackfella, and a woman, it’s actually the biggest f*** you,” they say.

She says she wrote to Boxing Australia to ask them to change the name of the award, but had the request knocked back.

“I didn’t realise how deeply embedded the sport was in misogyny,” they reflect.

“So it just depends on what lens you take. It’s quite satisfying at the same time.

“I’m that bitch too. I love pissing people off, and I just know he’d be mad.”

“Tunstall would be rolling in his grave right now,” adds Bryant, smiling.

“I’m very proud.”

‘I thought my Olympic dream was over’

Williamson-Pohlman qualified for the Olympics by defeating Cara Wharerau in the final of the Pacific Games in November 2023.

Bryant, watching ringside, remembers being ‘covered in goosebumps’.

“As a coach, when you get those big wins, you’re quite emotional,” he says.

“There’s nothing better than that feeling.”

The feat was all the more impressive given Williamson-Pohlman had dislocated her knee just weeks earlier, and faced a nervous wait for medical clearance.

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“It was terrifying, I thought my Olympic dream was over,” they say.

“My kneecap moved about 12mm, hit the femur bone, bounced and shaved off all the cartilage in my leg and damaged the ligaments.”

What Williamson-Pohlman didn’t realise was that she had an existing MCL (medial cruciate ligament) strain, which caused the dislocation.

Competing at the Pacific Games required a number of platelet-rich plasma injections (where the athlete’s own blood cells are injected into an area requiring healing), as well as a leap of faith from Williamson-Pohlman and their treating team.

She blames the injury on the sport being amateur, which means working full-time to support her athletic career.

Over a month ago, they made the decision to step away from work, living off their savings and sponsorship money until Paris.

Previously, they had worked Monday to Friday, heading straight from work to the gym in Collingwood, training six days a week.

In Australia, boxers don’t receive funding when they qualify for the Olympics.

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The journey to the Olympics has been long and arduous …
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… and the moment to head to Paris has almost arrived.
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Whatever the result at the 2024 Olympics, Marissa Williamson-Pohlman’s journey has been one of grit, determination, and inspiration. 

“It’s not like I have [biological] parents giving me a hand,” she says.

Williamson-Pohlman, however, is up for the fight.

Elsewhere they have credited their resilience to being a “staunch Blak woman”, as well as their Aboriginal heritage.

“I don’t give up,” she says.

“I’m headstrong. If I want something, I’m gonna get it. I’m gonna work my arse off for it. And that’s every single Blackfella that I know.”

As inspirations, they cite “black matriarchs” including Lidia Thorpe, and other “strong, powerful Blak women” like their adoptive Mum.

“They’ve had to overcome so much to just get what others get handed to them,” Williamson-Pohlman says.

“So I’m like, [the Olympics] is nothing in comparison to what they do.”

Sports content to make you think… or allow you not to. A newsletter delivered each Saturday.

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WADA accepts Chinese swimmers tested positive to banned substance due to contaminated kitchen

A documentary from German broadcaster ARD, plus reports from the New York Times and News Corp, have revealed 23 Chinese swimmers tested positive to the same banned substance seven months before the Tokyo Olympics.

While World Anti-Doping Agency and World Aquatics were informed at the time, the news wasn’t publicly released and the athletes weren’t punished.

So what actually happened, and why weren’t they found guilty of doping?

Claims of a cover-up

The 23 athletes tested positive to a banned substance known as trimetazidine (TMZ).

It’s a drug used to treat heart disease but is considered performance enhancing as it can help with physical endurance.

Chinese swimmer Sun Yang served a three-month doping suspension in 2014 for taking TMZ, while teenage Russian figure skater Kamila Valieva received a four-year ban after she tested positive to the same substance at the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics.

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#WADA #accepts #Chinese #swimmers #tested #positive #banned #substance #due #contaminated #kitchen

The main venues of the 2032 Olympic and Paralympic Games have changed. Here’s the new plan

A review of Brisbane’s 2032 Olympics and Paralympics venues has recommended ensuring the Games leave a legacy in the city.

Former Brisbane lord mayor Graham Quirk, who led the review, recommended a new stadium be built in inner-city Victoria Park and the Gabba Stadium redevelopment be scrapped.

The Queensland government agreed with “most of it” and accepted 27 of the 30 recommendations.

So, will Brisbane have a new stadium for the Olympic and Paralympic Games?

The government has “ruled out” the review’s recommendation to build a new stadium at Victoria Park in Brisbane.

Former Brisbane lord mayor Graham Quirk said the review had found the proposal at Victoria Park was the best option.(Supplied: Archipelago)

Mr Miles said it was rejected because it is a more expensive option.

“When Queenslanders are struggling with housing and other costs, I cannot justify to them spending $3.4 billion on a new stadium,” he said.

Brisbane architect Peter Edwards said he is “mystified about why that seems to be so politically fraught”.

“We have to have a low-cost Games in 2032, which is our once-ever moment to present ourselves on the global stage,” he said.

What will happen to Brisbane’s Gabba stadium?

The Gabba redevelopment north-eastern view ahead of the 2023 Brisbane Olympic Games, stadium in background fans in foreground

An artist’s impression of the now-abandoned plan to redevelop the Gabba stadium at Woolloongabba.(Supplied: Queensland government)

Mr Miles said the “iconic Gabba will always be a stadium”, but the rebuild will not proceed.

He said too much has been invested in building public transport around the stadium.

“I don’t see a scenario where a future government demolishes the Gabba,” Mr Miles said.

He said the stadium will undergo a “refurbishment” ahead of the Games, in consultation with stakeholders.

AFL and Cricket Australia will no longer be displaced from the Gabba, and East Brisbane State School will not need to vacate its current site by the end of 2025.

The stadium will also no longer host the opening and closing ceremonies.

What about Lang Park?

Brisbane’s Lang Park is already the “spirit of rugby league” and now will be the “Olympic stadium”.

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Mr Miles said the stadium will host the opening and closing ceremonies for the 2032 Games.

“I’m biased, but I’ve always thought it was the best rectangular field in the world,” he said.

Alan Graham, general manager of Suncorp Stadium, said the stadium was looking forward to participating in the “wonderful Games” by improving the technology, adding large LED screens, additional seating, and better access.

Where will the athletic events be held?

An image of the athletics running track at the Queensland Sport and Athletic Centre in Brisbane

Under the new plan, the athletics events will be held at QSAC (Queensland Sport and Athletics Centre) at Nathan in Mt Gravatt.(ABC News: Dean Caton)

Queensland Sport and Athletics Complex (QSAC) is set to be upgraded to hold athletic events, despite the review rejecting the option.

Mr Miles said it was ruled out by the review due to Olympic access costs, but the International Olympic Committee (IOC) has committed to him that it will “work to minimise those requirements”.

“QSAC is one of our most used venues, but we will turn it into the best athletics venue in Australia,” he said.

How much will it cost?

The government said the “new direction” for the Games ensures costs “remain within the agreed funding envelope of $7.1 billion, to be shared between the state and commonwealth governments”.

the gabba stadium

The Queensland and federal government had previously made a $7 billion funding agreement to redevelop the Gabba and build Brisbane Live Arena at Roma Street Station.(ABC News: Christopher Gillette)

The cost of upgrading QSAC, and how long it will take, is yet to be determined.

Mr Miles said that if the upgrades cost $1 billion, it would still leave “in the order of a billion dollars” to be splurged, “roughly half-half” between upgrading Lang Park and the Gabba.

What about the other Olympic venues?

Brisbane Live exterior daytime graphic with arena in the middle and fans walking nearby

The Brisbane Live Arena was originally meant to be built on top of Roma Street Station, and is now set to be built at Roma Street parklands nearby.(Supplied: Queensland government)

State Development Minister Grace Grace said the government supports the recommendation to build the Brisbane Arena in the new location at the upper end of Roma Street Parklands.

Moreton Bay Indoor Sport Centre will proceed, with the site’s expansion being investigated.

Toowoomba Sports Ground will not proceed, as recommended, but the government will explore opportunities to host other events in the region.

Albion’s Breakfast Creek Indoor Sports Precinct will also not proceed, with a centre in Zillmere or Boondall to be considered instead.

What about the athlete villages?

The locations of the athlete villages were not part of the review.

Mr Miles said villages will remain at Hamilton in Brisbane, on the Gold Coast, and on the Sunshine Coast.

Now the review is done, what’s next?

Ms Grace said the government will now “move quickly”.

“We’ve got a path forward,” she said.

An independent delivery authority will oversee the sports venue program, which is set to be established by mid-2024.

Queensland Development Minister Grace Grace wears a dark blazer.

Grace Grace said the government will move quickly to deliver the infrastructure needed for the 2032 Games.(ABC News)

Will Brisbane be ready in time for the 2032 Olympic Games?

Griffith University Cities Research Institute director Professor Paul Burton said the longer debates and discussions continue, the probability of projects being rushed, unfinished, and expensive increases.

 “Delays often come during the development phase, not the construction phase,” he said.

“The sooner you can start construction, the better.”

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Gold Coast teen wants to play Fortnite professionally and he’s just been crowned an Olympic champion

The explosion in popularity of esports is forcing parents and teachers to rethink their resistance to video games and welcome them into the classroom.

For decades gaming was a source of frustration for parents, viewed as an unwelcome distraction for teenagers who spend too much time glued to a screen.

The esports juggernaut has burst into popular culture and gained mainstream acceptance.

Investment bank Goldman Sachs predicts esports’ viewership will overtake the NFL and analysis from Deloitte found “fabled riches” await investors and advertisers that tap into its young, affluent audience.

Online gaming is so ubiquitous that teachers have given up trying to fight it and are now actively encouraging esports through school-based competition.

Student gamers from 25 schools competed at the Fuse Cup national championships on the Gold Coast.(Supplied: Fuse Cup)

Many Australian schools include esports as a co-curricular activity where students practice, tryout for the team and travel to live, in-person competitions.

About 50,000 students from more than 300 schools took part in the Fuse Cup, an international esports competition for children.

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Zika Virus Infection Fast Facts | CNN



CNN
 — 

Here’s a look at Zika virus, an illness spread through mosquito bites that can cause birth defects and other neurological defects.

Sources: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), World Health Organization (WHO) and CNN

Zika virus is a flavivirus, part of the same family as yellow fever, West Nile, chikungunya and dengue fever.

Zika is primarily transmitted through the bite of an infected female Aedes aegypti mosquito. It becomes infected from biting an infected human and then transmits the virus to another person. The Aedes aegypti mosquito is an aggressive species, active day and night and usually bites when it is light out. The virus can be transmitted from a pregnant woman to her fetus, through sexual contact, blood transfusion or by needle.

The FDA approved the first human trial of a Zika vaccine in June 2016. As of May 2022, there is still no available vaccine or medication.

Cases including confirmed, probable or suspected cases of Zika in US states and territories updated by the CDC.

Most people infected with Zika virus won’t have symptoms. If there are symptoms, they will last for a few days to a week.

Fever, rash, joint pain and conjunctivitis (red eyes) are the most common symptoms. Some patients may also experience muscle pain or headaches.

Zika virus infection during pregnancy can cause microcephaly, a neurological disorder that results in babies being born with abnormally small heads. Microcephaly can cause severe developmental issues and sometimes death. A Zika infection may cause other birth defects, including eye problems, hearing loss and impaired growth. Miscarriage can also occur.

An August 2018 report published by the CDC estimates that nearly one in seven babies born to women infected with the Zika virus while pregnant had one or more health problems possibly caused by the virus, including microcephaly.

According to the CDC, there is no evidence that previous infection will affect future pregnancies.

(Sources: WHO, CDC and CNN)

1947 – The Zika virus is first discovered in a monkey by scientists studying yellow fever in Uganda’s Zika forest.

1948 – The virus is isolated from Aedes africanus mosquito samples in the Zika forest.

1964 – First active case of Zika virus found in humans. While researchers had found antibodies in the blood of people in both Uganda and in Tanzania as far back as 1952, this is the first known case of the active virus in humans. The infected man developed a pinkish rash over most of his body but reported the illness as “mild,” with none of the pain associated with dengue and chikungunya.

1960s-1980s – A small number of countries in West Africa and Asia find Zika in mosquitoes, and isolated, rare cases are reported in humans.

April-July 2007 – The first major outbreak in humans occurs on Yap Island, Federated States of Micronesia. Of the suspected 185 cases reported, 49 are confirmed, and 59 are considered probable. There are an additional 77 suspected cases. No deaths are reported.

2008 – Two American researchers studying in Senegal become ill with the Zika virus after returning to the United States. Subsequently, one of the researchers transmits the virus to his wife.

2013-2014 – A large outbreak of Zika occurs in French Polynesia, with about 32,000 suspected cases. There are also outbreaks in the Pacific Islands during this time. An uptick in cases of Guillain-Barré Syndrome during the same period suggests a possible link between the Zika virus and the rare neurological syndrome. However, it was not proven because the islands were also experiencing an outbreak of dengue fever at the time.

March 2015 – Brazil alerts the WHO to an illness with skin rash that is present in the northeastern region of the country. From February 2015 to April 29, 2015, nearly 7,000 cases of illness with a skin rash are reported. Later in the month, Brazil provides additional information to WHO on the illnesses.

April 29, 2015 – A state laboratory in Brazil informs the WHO that preliminary samples have tested positive for the Zika virus.

May 7, 2015 – The outbreak of the Zika virus in Brazil prompts the WHO and the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) to issue an epidemiological alert.

October 30, 2015 – Brazil reports an increase in the cases of microcephaly, babies born with abnormally small heads: 54 cases between August and October 30.

November 11, 2015 – Brazil declares a national public health emergency as the number of newborns with microcephaly continues to rise.

November 27, 2015 – Brazil reports it is examining 739 cases of microcephaly.

November 28, 2015 – Brazil reports three deaths from Zika infection: two adults and one newborn.

January 15 and 22, 2016 – The CDC advises all pregnant women or those trying to become pregnant to postpone travel or consult their physicians prior to traveling to any of the countries where Zika is active.

February 2016 – The CDC reports Zika virus in brain tissue samples from two Brazilian babies who died within a day of birth, as well as in fetal tissue from two miscarriages providing the first proof of a potential connection between Zika and the rising number of birth defects, stillbirths and miscarriages in mothers infected with the virus.

February 1, 2016 – The WHO declares Zika a Public Health Emergency of International Concern due to the increase of neurological disorders, such as microcephaly, in areas of French Polynesia and Brazil.

February 8, 2016 – The CDC elevates its Emergency Operations Center for Zika to Level 1, the highest level of response at the CDC.

February 26, 2016 – Amid indications that the mosquito-borne Zika virus is causing microcephaly in newborns, the CDC advises pregnant women to “consider not going” to the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. The CDC later strengthens the advisory, telling pregnant women, “Do not go to the Olympics.”

March 4, 2016 – The US Olympic Committee announces the formation of an infectious disease advisory group to help the USOC establish “best practices regarding the mitigation, assessment and management of infectious disease, paying particular attention to how issues may affect athletes and staff participating in the upcoming Olympic and Paralympic Games.”

April 13, 2016 – During a press briefing, CDC Director Thomas Frieden said, “It is now clear the CDC has concluded that Zika does cause microcephaly. This confirmation is based on a thorough review of the best scientific evidence conducted by CDC and other experts in maternal and fetal health and mosquito-borne diseases.”

May 27, 2016 – More than 100 prominent doctors and scientists sign an open letter to WHO Director General Margaret Chan, calling for the summer Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro to be postponed or moved “in the name of public health” due to the widening Zika outbreak in Brazil.

July 8, 2016 – Health officials in Utah report the first Zika-related death in the continental United States.

August 1, 2016 – Pregnant women and their partners are advised by the CDC not to visit the Miami neighborhood of Wynwood as four cases of the disease have been reported in the small community and local mosquitoes are believed to be spreading the infection.

September 19, 2016 – The CDC announces that it has successfully reduced the population of Zika-carrying mosquitoes in Wynwood and lifts its advisory against travel to the community.

November 18, 2016 – The WHO declares that the Zika virus outbreak is no longer a public health emergency, shifting the focus to long-term plans to research the disease and birth defects linked to the virus.

November 28, 2016 – Health officials announce Texas has become the second state in the continental United States to confirm a locally transmitted case of Zika virus.

September 29, 2017 – The CDC deactivates its emergency response for Zika virus, which was activated in January 2016.

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At the northern tip of Australia, the search is on for the next First Nations Olympics champion

Waibene is the place from where Australia’s first Indigenous Olympic or Paralympic swimming champion could emerge.

English speakers call it Thursday Island. Swimming Australia hopes a pilot program being trialled there will deliver a First Nations champion at the 2032 Olympic and Paralympic Games.

“Deadly Little Dolphins” is a program that is about much more than talent identification in the Torres Strait Islands – it is about harnessing children’s love of the water to improve educational outcomes; it is about water safety, with First Nations children over-represented in national drowning statistics; and it is about building bridges between cultures.

Quandamooka man Cameron Costello is a member of the Brisbane 2032 Legacy Committee. He told The Ticket there is an opportunity for reciprocal benefit.

“It’s a connector between two cultures, it is a shared learning,” he said.

“What we hope is that through the engagement and learning about getting into squads there is also the balance of sharing in culture, connecting with country, culture and people for non-indigenous people who are involved in this program.

“That’s the beauty of this program, it provides that pathway for reciprocal shared learnings.

“We are in an amazing space at the moment in terms of Australia and our journey to reconciliation with First Nations people … we see this as a great avenue for that as well.

“It provides such a positive, exciting, generous process for aboriginal and non-Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and non-Torres Strait Islander people to come together.”

The Swimming Australia initiative is First Nations led and co-designed. The hope is corporate Australia will see the benefits and contribute to a national rollout.

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Swimming Australia wants ‘envy of the world’ aquatics centre built for Brisbane Olympics, not drop-in pool

A new home of Australian swimming needs to be built in Brisbane ahead of the 2032 Olympic and Paralympic Games, the peak body for the sport says.

The current plan for the swimming event at the Games involves a drop-in pool at the planned Brisbane Live entertainment arena to be built at Roma Street with $2.5 billion in funding from the federal government.

But Swimming Australia chief executive Eugenie Buckley said while the drop-in pool would be “wonderful for fans” during the Games, it would not leave behind a legacy for swimming — a sport that has delivered almost 50 per cent of Australia’s medals.

“If we look back at Sydney 2000, when they got the Sydney Olympic Park Aquatic Centre, who are actually hosting the New South Wales State Opens this weekend, so it’s still a legacy asset and used,” she said.

“I think it would be beneficial to have a physical legacy because it’s something where in the lead-up and post, you can have your general community from learn-to-swim to masters all being able to swim in that Olympic [and] Paralympic pool and being inspired by performances of the Dolphins (the Australian swim team).”

Eugenie Buckley says Swimming Australia is approaching universities and businesses about building a national headquarters. (ABC News: Mark Leonardi)

Swimming Australia did not suggest a location for the national site or the cost of building it.

Ms Buckley said Swimming Australia would seek public and stakeholder feedback on the ideas for the location and design of the aquatic centre and go to market with the plan.

“We’re currently having conversations with universities, private developers, government, of course in relation to what this national home of swimming would look like,” she said.

Deputy Premier Steven Miles told ABC Radio Brisbane the city did not need a permanent swimming venue with 15,000 seats, but needed a live music venue.

“Our plan does involve a major upgrade of the Brisbane Aquatic Centre at Chandler and we’d love if Swimming Australia wanted to make that the home of swimming for all of Australia,” he said.

Ms Buckley said Swimming Australia would love to have a national aquatic centre with technology and innovation that Australia is proud of.

Ms Buckley told ABC Radio Brisbane “nothing is off the table” for the new home of swimming and flagged there were existing possible locations like the Chandler centre and Gold Cost Aquatic Centre upgraded for the 2018 Commonwealth Games.

“In an ideal world, in our dream, we would love to have a national aquatic centre that is the envy of the world that actually attracts tourists to come to Queensland, to Brisbane, to have a look at the home of swimming,” she said.

“We’re working on our own swimming headquarters, we’re looking at an integration between our high-performance centre of excellence, our corporate headquarters, as well as full integration with our community.

“We’d like to go to market, we’re currently having conversations with universities, private developers, government, of course in relation to what this national home of swimming could look like.”

Games legacy strategy being developed

The state and federal government last month struck a $7 billion funding agreement last month to overhaul Brisbane’s sporting and event venues ahead of the Games.

The agreement would see the federal government fund $2.5 billion towards building the 18,000-seat Brisbane Live entertainment arena and the state rebuild the Gabba for $2.7 billion.

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A digital depiction of what the Gabba could look like by 2032.

At the time of the announcement, federal member for the inner-city seat of Griffith, Max Chandler-Mather, said it was a “disgraceful” misuse of government money.

Organisers have pitched the sporting spectacle as a more sustainable and cost-effective event, with the International Olympic Committee scrapping its costly old rules requiring sports to have their own purpose-built facilities for the Games.

James Cook University adjunct professor and regional economist Colin Dwyer said he understood the need for better swimming facilities but noted the cost of the Games had already blown out.

He said the Gabba would cost about $54,000 per seat, while the Brisbane Live arena would cost $147,058 per seat.

“We need to know how much extra it’s going to cost for swimming facilities and where the money is going to come from,” he said.

“We also have to think about the impact on regions, and distant regions that aren’t going to get the same benefit as the south-east corner.”

Swimming Australia’s call for legacy infrastructure comes as the peak body today launches consultation with stakeholders and the public, to develop a BNE32 Legacy Impact Strategy.

“A physical legacy will be a really hot topic as we go out to consultation with our community, but as it stands now, it’s certainly not our preference to have a drop-in pool,” Ms Buckley said.

The legacy committee formed by Swimming Australia to design a strategy will be chaired by Olympian Grant Hackett.

Brisbane Live exterior daytime graphic with arena in the middle and fans walking nearby
The federal government is funding the Brisbane Live project.(Supplied: Queensland government)

Swimming is already the nation’s largest participation sport, with 5.3 million organised swimmers.

Sleeman Sports Complex in the Brisbane suburb of Chandler was purpose-built for the 1982 Commonwealth Games, and its indoor Brisbane Aquatic Centre is slated for an upgrade as part of the state government’s 2032 master plan for the Games.

The Brisbane Aquatic Centre will host Olympic artistic swimming, diving and water polo, and the Paralympic Aquatics with 4,300 spectator seats.

A Queensland government spokesperson said the government was “happy to discuss the possible location of a new home for Australian swimming in Queensland” but Brisbane Arena will host “Olympic and Paralympic swimming and water polo finals”.

The Commonwealth government has been contacted for comment.

‘A pod of First Nations Dolphins’

Quandamooka traditional owner Cameron Costello, who is on the Brisbane 2032 Legacy Committee and the Swimming Australia committee, said the Games present an opportunity to make sure there is more representation of First Nations swimmers.

Head shot of Cameron Costello
Quandamooka man Cameron Costello wants the Games to lead to more First Nations people participating in swimming.(ABC News: Curtis Rodda)

He said the infrastructure should integrate First Nations design principles that share the stories of Indigenous people.

“It’s not just the sport, it’s the events, the jobs, the volunteers, we want to ensure our First Nations people are engaged with that, and more broadly with regional and remote communities,” he said.

“We want a pod of First Nations Dolphins.”

Ellie Cole smiles while wearing a green sleeveless jacket
Ellie Cole would like to see a more accessible stadium.(ABC News: West Mattheeussen)

Paralympian Ellie Cole, who is on the Swimming Australia legacy committee, said she is looking forward to seeing inclusive strategies being developed for the 2032 Games.

“I would like to see an increase in the number of Para Athletes making themselves eligible for 2032,” she said.

“I would like to see an increase in that Para pathway funding and more opportunities for athletes to be classified.

“It would be nice to see a permanent structure that has consideration around universal design, an accessible design, so that everyone in our community is able to use it and able to use it for years to come.”

Stubblety-Cook standing on the Olympic podium, arms raised.
Brisbane Olympic swimmer Zac Stubblety-Cook won gold in Tokyo.(Supplied: Delly Carr)

Australian swimmer Zac Stubblety-Cook, who won gold at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics in 200m breaststroke, said a home Games was all about creating legacy.

“It’s a real opportunity to put ourselves on the map as the best swimming nation in the world, I think it would take a lot to get there, but I think it would really take the sport to the next level in terms of the decades afterwards,” he said.

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Michael Klim talks about his swim challenge, the 2000 Olympics and his life with CIDP

Olympian Michael Klim says the support and friendship of the swimming community — including former American arch-rival Gary Hall Jr — has helped him deal with his ongoing health issues from a chronic neural condition. 

Dual Olympic gold medallist Klim was diagnosed with chronic inflammatory demyelinating polyneuropathy (CIDP) in 2020.

The condition resulted in ongoing chronic pain, fatigue and difficulty of movement.

Klim was speaking to ABC Sport as he prepared for the Brainwave Klim Swim Challenge in March to raise awareness of, and funds to fight, CIDP and other neural conditions, with children’s charity Brainwave Australia the chief beneficiary.

He also talked about the importance swimming has had in his life and the bond he has with his fellow team members — and rivals — from the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games.

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From the worst food at an athletes’ village to winning gold, Susie O’Neill shares her Olympic memories

Swimming great Susie O’Neill was 20 when Sydney won its bid to host the 2000 Olympics.

It was 1993 and she had already represented Australia at the Barcelona Olympics the year before.

“I was at a training camp at the Australian Institute of Sport, I remember we all got up really early to hear the announcement,” O’Neill says.

“My first reaction was, ‘Oh my gosh, I’m going to be so old, I’ll be 27’.” 

An artist’s impression of the opening ceremony at the Gabba for the 2032 Olympics.(Supplied: Queensland government)

For any young athletes with dreams of making it to the Brisbane Olympics in 2032, O’Neill has this advice.

“It’s a long time, so you have to break it down to the smallest goals,” she says.

“When I was an athlete, I broke it down to each training session and if you give 100 per cent at each session, it will add up.”

two female athletes holding their olympic medals
O’Neill and fellow Olympic swimmer Sam Riley (left) both won bronze at their first Games in Barcelona.(Supplied: Susie O’Neill)

When O’Neill began her international swimming career there were limited opportunities to make money.

“I was an amateur athlete, you couldn’t keep swimming into your 30s, even 27 was a bit of stretch,” O’Neill says.

However, when Sydney was announced at the host city, money started pouring into the sport.

“All these corporate opportunities opened up, and I was able to keep swimming and make it to Sydney,” O’Neill says. 

“It meant that I could just focus on swimming rather than have to work as well.”

close up head shot of Susie O'Neill with her parents
O’Neill, pictured with her parents John and Trish, was born in Mackay in north Queensland.(Supplied: Susie O’Neill)

Susie O’Neil may have earned the nickname Madame Butterfly but she actually started out swimming backstroke.

“Everyone always asks how swimmers choose their events and it’s just down to whatever will give you the best chance of winning,” O’Neill says.

“We all start out wanting to be sprinters … 50 or 100m but if you can’t do that, you gradually try to find another event.”

At 14, O’Neill came second in the 100m butterfly at the Australian trials for the 1988 Seoul Olympic Games team. 

She narrowly missed out on selection but it was clear butterfly was going to be her focus.

A group female Australian Olympians in 1992 team uniform
O’Neill has worn three different Australian Olympic team uniforms. Here is what they looked like in 1992.(Supplied: Susie O’Neill)

O’Neill competed at three Olympics but the games in Barcelona stand out for a few reasons.

She won her first medal, a bronze in the 200m butterfly.

The food at the athlete’s village was also memorable.

“It was the first time I saw Magnums [ice-cream], there were big buckets full of them, we didn’t have them in Australia yet,” O’Neill says.

“These days the Olympic villages all look similar and that’s often to keep costs down,” she says.

Barcelona had a different feeling.

“Our rooms had big bay windows looking out over the water,” she says.

O’Neill says the worst food was in Atlanta in 1996, which for the first time, offered athletes unlimited McDonalds.

“They don’t do it now but back then, once your event was over there was an endless supply of cheeseburgers,” she says.

O’Neill also remembers security being very relaxed in Barcelona.

“The wife of our head coach, who was quite a bit older than me, was able to use my lanyard to get into the pool.”

‘I was a very nervous competitor’

groups of Australian olympians in a grandstand
O’Neill with her teammates at the Atlanta 1996 Olympics.(Supplied: Susie O’Neill)

Like many athletes, O’Neill had a specific pre-race routine to help keep calm and reduce nerves.

“[It was] a certain warm-up, getting changed at a particular time and walking to the pool and splashing water in my mouth,” she says.

“I started out listening to music before a race but stopped because when I am nervous, noise irritates me and I like to hear what’s going on around me,” O’Neill says.

“I was a very nervous competitor.

“You’d think it would have gotten better as I got older, but it actually got worse.”

Three swimmers with their medals after a race.
O’Neill, Petria Thomas and Michelle Smith after the 200m butterfly in Atlanta.(Supplied: Susie O’Neill)

At the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, O’Neill won her first gold medal, in the 200m butterfly, making her the first Australian female swimmer to win gold since 1980.

O’Neill also defeated Irish swimmer Michelle Smith, whose sudden surge of success had caused suspicion.

“Before the race everyone was saying she was on drugs, even in the marshalling area before I went out people were urging me on to beat her,” O’Neill says.

Fellow Australian Petria Thomas came in second, Michelle Smith third.

“Michelle got banned from swimming [for four years] after Atlanta, not for having drugs in her system but for having enough whisky in her sample to be dead … she had tampered with her sample.”

The back of two fans wearing t-shirts in support of Susie O'Neill.
Two Susie O’Neill fans at the 2000 Olympics.(Supplied: Susie O’Neill)

Heading into the 2000 Sydney Olympics, O’Neill held the world record for the 200m butterfly and was the favourite to win in front of the home crowd.

“Everyone likes to be noticed and I’m no different but the lead-up to Sydney was intense.”

O’Neill did win gold in Sydney but not for the 200m butterfly.

In that race, she came second.

Susie O'Neill with teammates at Sydney 2000
O’Neill, pictured with Sydney 2000 teammates, says nothing compares to the atmosphere of a home Olympics.(Supplied: Susie O’Neill)

“When people used to talk about the Sydney Olympics, I had a funny feeling and would kind of shut it down,” she says.

O’Neill watched the race for the first time only a few years ago, during her live breakfast radio show.

“I thought I would feel nothing but then all this stuff just started pouring out,” she says.

The experience was completely unexpected but had a profound impact.

“For a long time I thought of that race as a failure but I absolutely do not think that now.”

O’Neill’s gold medal came in the 200m freestyle. She also won two silver medals in relay events.

After Sydney she was ready to leave the sport.

“I was really over it … physically I could have kept going but it’s a very limiting lifestyle,” O’Neill says.

O’Neill hasn’t swum more than a lap of butterfly since the Sydney Games but still loves swimming and trains several times a week.

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