SYDNEY, Nov 23. AUSTRALIAN superstar, Susie O'Neill, announced her retirement from swimming yesterday.
O'Neill, who won a gold medal in the 200 meter butterfly at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics and another gold in the 200 meter freestyle at the Sydney Games, said she had decided to hang up her goggles because she felt it was time to move on.
"(Swimming) has been such a big part of my life for the last 18 years," O'Neill said. "There is nothing else I would like to achieve. I knew it was time to go," she told reporters.
O'Neill, 27, achieved every honor the sport has to offer but suffered a shock defeat in her final race at the Sydney Olympic Games when she finished second to Misty Hyman in the 200 meter butterfly, the event she had made her own. Nicknamed "Madame Butterfly," O'Neill had not lost a 200 meter butterfly race since 1994.
She went into the final as the reigning Olympic and world champion and world record holder but had to settle for silver in one of the biggest upsets of the Games.
Disappointed by her defeat, O'Neill's only consolation was that she had won the 200 freestyle title a few days earlier even though she didn't expect to win.
O'Neill, who won a bronze medal in 200 butterfly as a teenager at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics, finished her career with eight Olympic medals.
She also won more Australian and Commonwealth titles than any swimmer in history but said the highlight of her career was breaking U.S. champion Mary T. Meagher's 1981 world record during this year's Australian Olympic trials.
"It was in front of a home crowd, it was sort of expected of me but I still had to go out there and do it," she said. "And I got to speak to Mary T. Meagher half an hour after the record. It was very special," O'Neill said.
O'Neill, who in 1998 married her childhood sweetheart Cliff Fairley, a physician, was elected an athlete representative to the International Olympic Committee during the Sydney Games. She is one of two swimmers (the other is Russia's Alex Popov) who serves on the IOC.