What is Susie O'Neill's Experience with Social Anxiety?

Susie O'Neill has spoken publicly about her battle with social anxiety.
Photo: Quinn Rooney / Getty Images. Photo: Quinn Rooney / Getty Images

Susie O'Neill is a swimmer and Olympic gold medalist who was born on August 2, 1973 in Queensland, Australia.

Susie narrowly missed being selected to compete in the 1988 Seoul Olympics at age 14. In 1996, Susie won gold, silver and bronze medals at the Atlanta Olympics. She holds 35 Australian titles, 8 Olympic medals and never failed to win a medal in any international event that she entered.

Susie, known by the nickname "Madame Butterfly" for her prowess at the stroke, retired after competing in the 2000 Sydney Olympics.

She served on the International Olympic Committee (IOC) until 2005, resigning shortly after the birth of her second child with husband Cliff Fairley.

In addition to having her own swimsuit line, Susie is an ambassador for a number of companies and organizations, including the Fred Hollows Foundation.

Susie is married to Cliff Fairley, who works as an ophthalmologist. Together they have a daughter and son named Alix and William.

Experience with Social Anxiety

Susie discussed her experience with social anxiety in an interview with the Australian Women's Weekly in 1998.

The swimmer was afraid to win because it meant standing on the podium and being the center of attention. She also feared being chosen for a team event because it would mean speaking to strangers.

In her book, "Choose to win: Achieving your goals, fulfilling your dreams," Susie talks about her self-doubt in social situations.

During her career, Susie was sometimes called the "quiet assassin" because of her ability to set aside a shy and reserved nature to become a fierce competitor in the water.

Quotes About Susie O'Neill

"Susie was always very shy and very quiet. But the one thing that you could see in her was this incredible competitive spirit. She wasn’t the champion who would, sort of struts along the pool so to speak. She just seemed like a normal person and I think people loved that."

- Gerry Collins, ABC Commentator

"I'm hoping they're not swimmers! I don't want to go through it again. It takes up a lot of time. I want them to have broader skills in a lot of things. But I just want them to be happy."

- Susie O'Neill talking about her children and swimming.

"I would have communicated better," she said. "I always had anxiety when swimming but I was just so unbelievably nervous and was having trouble sleeping. I didn't even tell my coach that and probably should have talked to the team doc to take something to sleep. Had I done that differently and worked on the mental side of things, which wasn't something I did specifically, I'm sure the result would have been different."

- Susie O'Neill talking about competing.


ABC Local Radio. Australian Story: Finding Her Focus (Program transcript). Accessed February 29, 2016.

Evening Standard. Susie O'Neill cracked at her home Games but knows how to help Brit stars cope with 2012. Accessed February 29, 2016.

The Herald Sun. Fitting reward for classy Madame. Accessed February 29, 2016.

Yahoo! Lifestyle: New Idea. Susie O'Neill: Life after the pool. Accessed February 29, 2016.

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