Three-time Olympian Suzy Favor Hamilton shocked the world when she fell 100 meters short of the finish line at the Sydney Olympics in 2000.
The shocking moment, she said, marked the beginning of her “spiral down” – a period that reached a troubling turning point in 2012 when her secret life as a high-end escort was made public.
The 48-year-old is opening up about what led to her deliberate fall, how her misdiagnosed mental illness led her to become a Las Vegas call girl and how she put her life back together after her secret was revealed to the world on the next installment of Oprah: Where Are They Now?.
“I went into that competition running the fastest time in the world and I was the one who was supposed to win the gold medal,” Hamilton said of the race that ended her career. “I’m 32 years old and I’m carrying the weight of the world on my shoulders.”
“With 100 meters to go I was suffering an anxiety attack,” she continued. “I fell on purpose and I didn’t even have time to think of it I just said to myself, Just fall,’ because I felt like that would be the easy way out.”
Hamilton said this moment changed her from the golden girl of U.S. track to someone she didn’t recognize.
“That was the down spiral of my life,” she said. “I had no idea but that race had changed me forever.”
After taking the dive, Hamilton returned home to Wisconsin with her husband Mark and began suffering extreme mood swings.
Initially misdiagnosed with depression, Hamilton was prescribed an anti-depressant, but it only made her feel worse.
In 2011, for her 20th anniversary with Mark, Hamilton suggested a trip to Las Vegas and a night with an escort. Six months later, she became an escort herself.
After her secret double life became national news, Hamilton was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and began a long process of redemption and recovery. Hamilton told PEOPLE in 2015 that the scandal ultimately made her marriage stronger and writing a memoir helped her heal what could have left her scarred forever.
[It] was therapeutic for me,” she said. “There are so many people who are silently suffering. What would happen if they spoke up? That’s what I’m hoping to help with.”
Oprah: Where Are They Now? featuring Suzy Favor Hamilton airs Saturday, Aug. 20 at 10 p.m. ET/PT on OWN.