Michael has three daughters – Isabella, 16, Angelica, 13, and Rihanna, 8 – with Cathy Diamond, from whom he has separated. The six-time Olympian says his children are struggling to come to terms with his illness.
“My youngest one has taken this quite hard,” he says. “She doesn’t really understand.”
Michael’s health problems started about a month ago when, after suffering shortness of breath, he took himself to Gosford Hospital. An ultrasound on Michael’s heart revealed the shocking news – his heart was functioning at just 15 per cent.
“It was bizarre and alarming,” Michael says of the surprise diagnosis.
When Michael went home, things only became worse. He’d gained about 8kg of fluid and could barely sleep.
“I would wake up at night and think I was suffocating,” he recalls. “I had to sleep upright
to try and keep fluid out of my lungs.”
When the situation became unbearable, Michael again ended up in hospital, where this time the doctors delivered the news that left him gobsmacked.
“They told me I’m actually in line for a heart transplant,” Michael says. “I thought, I’m tooyoung for that.”
It’s then Michael realised he was facing a battle harder than anything on the sporting field.
“This is the greatest fight of my life,” he says.
But what caused Michael’s heart failure? He doesn’t smoke, and drugs, he says, was not an issue, given the stringent testing he faced as an elite athlete.
There was, however, one contributing factor Michael admits has had huge impact on his life: intense levels of stress. And not only in competition.
In 2016, Michael’s life came crumbling down when, following an alleged domestic dispute,
he was convicted over firearms offences, and for high-range drink driving, which saw him miss the Rio Olympics. The conviction carried a 10-year
ban from holding a gun licence and effectively ended his celebrated shooting career.
But the following year, Diamond successfully appealed against the conviction in Newcastle District Court and had his firearms ban quashed.
“I was nervous and stressed-out all the time,” Michael says of his legal struggle. “I believe everything has snowballed to how I am feeling today.”
Diamond again found himself on the wrong side of the law this year when he was caught driving while disqualified twice in one week. Michael had been banned from driving until 2022. He pleaded guilty and in August was fined $800 and banned fromdriving for a further nine months.
To pay for his legal bills and support his family, Michael was heartbreakingly forced to sell
his gold medal from the 2000 Olympics at a Sydney auction for $72,000. “It was just devastating for me,” he admits.
New Idea can reveal Michael will now auction his gold medal from the Atlanta Olympics at Leonard Joel auction house in Melbourne on December 5. “I still have bills and I’ve still got to survive,” a sombre Michael says.
While he had hoped to compete at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, his health crisis has shot this dream to pieces. But Michael’s recent troubles have given him a new perspective on his life.
“I’ve got kids to worry about and I’m doing just that,” he says.
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