As she toed the starting line for the 1,500-meter finals, she was consumed with doubt and dread. When the gun sounded, she tore off. After running three laps in what she described as “sheer panic,” she found herself in the lead with a lap to go. But she couldn’t outpace the fear that something terrible was about to happen—and in a self-fulfilling prophecy, it did.
Overcome with anxiety as the finish line loomed nearer, she stopped and fell to the track. She forced herself back onto her feet and completed the race. But when she saw the media waiting for her, she couldn’t bear the shame of coming in last in her last Olympics. She dropped to the ground again. Medics lifted her and rushed her away.
“As far as I was concerned, this was the worst thing that had ever happened to me, worse than any other loss, worse, even, than my brother’s death,’’ she writes. “My perceptions were totally distorted. I was a wreck.”
She lied in her post-race interview with reporters, not telling them—or even the people closest to her—that she had collapsed on purpose. The medic who treated her immediately after the race cited dehydration as the reason she fell. She gratefully went with that excuse, even though she knew it wasn’t true.