A week out from the biggest moment of his life, Rob Waddell could barely sleep.
The 25-year-old was favourite for gold at the 2000 Olympics, after dominating the single scull event over the previous few years, with world championship gold in 1998 and 1999.
But the pressure was building – internally and externally – and Waddell wasn't coping well in Sydney.
"He was seen as a dead cert for a gold medal," recalls former New Zealand Olympic team sports psychologist Gary Hermansson. "The rowing fraternity and the nation as a whole were almost like, okay, 'we can tick that off as a gold medal'. But he was struggling quite a bit.
"His wife Sonia came to see me in the village; she was worried about Rob, he wasn't sleeping well. We contrived to have a conversation with Rob – he didn't really want to go and see someone about it - and it helped pin down what was creating his anxiety."
Hermansson helped Waddell deal with the enormous expectation, which had built an immense fear of failure.
"We targeted where his head needed to be," says Hermansson. "He came up with the idea of keeping his head inside the boat, which was something he could manage, shifting from that external fear of failure to 'I know what I can do inside the boat'. "
Waddell's situation was exacerbated by the poor results across the first week of the 2000 Games.
Other medal contenders had flat lined and few athletes were rising to the occasion, despite New Zealand having their biggest Olympics team in Sydney.
"It was effectively our home Olympics," says then New Zealand team manager Richard de Groen. "That expectation had been built up – 'we will never get an Olympics closer than this'. There was a whole lot of hype going into Sydney, a lot of expectations on athletes and there wasn't the performances. The microscope was on and it was a bit of a disaster."
Hermansson, who provided support at every Olympic and Commonwealth Games between 1998 and 2016, feels the 2000 event was the start of unfettered expectation on those wearing the Silver Fern.
"There was a lot of chatter around all these strong likelihoods of medalling and it was beginning of seeing that in its starkness, around how that can happen," says Hermansson.
"And being close to home, it was a much more visible Games. By then television was much more rampant and able, covering everything and the closer we got to having possible medals, there was more of a likelihood we might struggle in that way."
"It's part of the New Zealand psyche; we tend to be pretty harsh on our athletes if they don't deliver what we want them to, but we also put massive expectations on them…it's results, results, results."
Anticipation had been building since 1993, when Sydney was awarded the Games.
In the same year the Hillary Commission released their five year strategic plan, a document which overtly targeted the 2000 Olympics, aiming for the Sydney Games to be the most successful in New Zealand's history.
That was ambitious.
After remarkable hauls in Los Angeles (11 medals), Seoul (13) and Barcelona (10), the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta had been a jolt back to reality.
There were still a highly respectable six medals, with two golds were won by the freakish Danyon Loader.
The equestrian team contributed a medal of each colour and Barbara Kendall continued her boardsailing success with a silver, but overall it was painted as a disappointing Olympics for New Zealand.
But Sydney would be a return to form and a record 151 athletes, across 15 sports, were selected for the trip across the Tasman.
Hopes were high - but not much went to plan. The swimming always loomed as an anti-climax – after the retirement of Loader – but no Kiwi made a final, with only two reaching the last 16.
Cycling had a large contingent (17 athletes) but came up short.
The Kiwis were well out of the picture in the road racing and failed to live up to pre-event hopes on the track. Sarah Ulmer went close, finishing fourth in the individual pursuit and eighth in the women's points race.
Glen Thomson also managed eighth in the men's points race while there were other credible performances in the men's time trial (11th) and women's sprint (10th) but ultimately no glory.
The nadir of the first week came in the Triathlon. World No 1 Hamish Carter was expected to podium in the new Olympic event, while there were also hopes for 1998 world championship bronze medallist Evelyn Williamson.
But Williamson never recovered from a difficult swim leg and came in 22nd while Carter – to the collective shock of the nation - didn't fire at all, finishing two and a half minutes behind the winner in 26th place.
"This is not how I saw myself racing," Carter told the Herald post-race. "I tried to lift. I just couldn't, dammit. It's a real bummer. I just wanted to perform well for the country and I couldn't do it."
New Zealand endured six days without a medal – while Australia was collecting a swag – before Mark Todd achieved bronze in the individual eventing.
"That showed the measure of Todd as a competitor," says former New Zealand Olympic Committee Communications Manager Gordon Irving. "Todd came into those Games with the sex and drugs controversy hanging over his head, after the Daily Mirror expose.
"Before the competition there was a press conference with the equestrian team, with 200 or 300 international media. The first two or three questions were all about that topic, to Todd. That was a bit difficult."
Blyth Tait couldn't defend his Atlanta gold in the individual eventing, while hopes in the team event were dashed when two horses were declared lame ahead of the cross country.
On the final day of the rowing programme Waddell memorably achieved his gold, crossing the line eight metres ahead of defending champion Xeno Mueller, while Aaron McIntosh and Kendall got bronzes in the men's and women's Mistral events.
There were five other top 10 finishes among the sailing team, with Chris Dickson and Glen Sowry (fifth in the Tornado class) closest to the podium.
Beatrice Faumuina was the principal track and field hope, but the 1997 world champion threw well below her best to finish 12th in the discus, while no other athletes made a final.
Hopes were also high for the women's Black Sticks, who were an experienced combination. They finished top of their pool, but then faded badly in the medal round, stung by a 7-1 loss to Argentina to eventually finish sixth in the 10-team competition, amid talk of a divided dressing room.
The Tall Blacks finished 11th of 12 nations, despite having the core of the team that would achieve remarkable things at the 2002 world championships.
The meagre tally of four medals was the lowest haul since 1976 (three), but that team in Montreal had only 80 athletes and picked up two golds.
It left New Zealand ranked 46th on the medal table in Sydney, after being eighth, 18th, 28th and 26th across the previous four Games.
It didn't help that Australia had raked in 58 medals (16 gold), only behind the United States, Russia and China.
"I remember meetings in Sydney – with talk about how are we going to defend this," says Irving. "There was a lot of criticism coming from New Zealand that we weren't doing well."
But there was also a realisation at the coal face, amidst the disappointment, that some pieces of the jigsaw were missing.
"There were discussions at the Games amongst senior management and coaches about what was going wrong," says Irving. "There had to be this change, we had to invest in coaching to lift our capabilities. We've seen since then that that has happened."
Former Black Sticks captain Peter Miskimmin, who was head of Sport New Zealand for 12 years before stepping down last year, was an athlete support person in Sydney, alongside former tennis great Belinda Cordwell.
"It was an honour to be there and to work with the athletes but I was enormously frustrated," says Miskimmin. "They all tried as hard as they could but we were outgunned by many other countries.
"We had all of this potential, all this talent, but it wasn't being realised. We weren't servicing those athletes well enough, to give them that fighting opportunity, through better programs with the national sporting bodies. The system wasn't providing the opportunities that it should have."
De Groen agrees, arguing that the Sydney outcome was an extension of what unfolded four years earlier in Atlanta.
"It started in 1996 with that poor performance," says de Groen. "There was an effort to try and correct it but you can't correct [the system] in four years.
"[Sydney] was built up to be an amazing Games and the pressure it put on to people and their lack of performance did take the gloss off what should have been a fabulous occasion. It became an enquiry, why didn't we perform?"
The answers to those questions were wide-ranging. Some athletes and teams had under performed but there were also system issues, which drove the significant overhaul of New Zealand's high performance funding and support model over the next decade, laying the platform for the stunning achievements in Beijing (2008), London (2012) and Rio (2016).
"If we go back, if the Games are a reflection of the system that we had, you get what you plan for and what you invest in," says Miskimmin. "When we changed the system, invested more and got world-class coaches and support around, things changed pretty quickly."