Okay, it is time to stop hiding under a rock.
And it is also time for many of us, who are Olympians to speak out.
Look, the very REAL fact of the matter is that many of us were depressed after the Olympics. Some of us got help. Some of us didn’t. Many of us were depressed and just passed it off as “post olympic blues” or “post olympic depression” but the fact of the matter is this — we were depressed.
I remember having a conversation with a psychologist from the Olympic Training Center. One who was VERY helpful and instrumental in my career and success as a competitor. I spoke with him after the Olympics when I was coaching Taraje Williams-Murray in preparation for the 2008 Olympics. I said, “Doc, the USOC does a GREAT job preparing us for competition with all of the services available, but after we’re done competing, I think that is when we really need to see a sports psychologist the most.”
A simple search on google for “Post Olympic Blues”,”Post Olympic Syndrome” or “Olympian commits suicide” will show you that this is a very real problem.
Without trying to sensationalize this thing or make is “fit for tv” we need to just keep it real and really talk about the Olympics, the sacrifices that we make and how it feels to go to the games and come back home, sometimes empty-handed.
I know that the networks love to show these folks who come home with decoration and medals, but the fact of the matter is that most of us leave the Olympics with nothing but the title of Olympian, past surgeries or an impending date with a surgeon, no money, lots of debt, no ticker tape parade, no job and worse yet, friends, family or a National Governing Body that is usually going to critique your behavior.
Not to mention the heat that you get from the social media once your event, match, meet or game is posted online. The things that people say about something that you committed so much too is just downright hurtful and can often send you over the top.
I’m telling you right now, as an Olympian, that the most irritating question that we get is, “Did you win a gold medal?”
People ask this with no intent of disrespect, but it is very disrespectful and hurtful. Its almost as if what you did and the way you represented your country isn’t worth anything if you did not get a medal.
Sometimes I wish people understood our plight. I think Olympians need an “all access” show like what the UFC does or what the cable networks like HBO and Showtime do with boxing. People need to really see what it is like and how much we sacrifice and how little many of us make in terms of money.
Reading that another judoka committed suicide today was extremely hurtful. Elena Ivashchenko committed suicide today because she fell into a depression after her poor performance at the 2012 Games in London. A few years ago it was believed that Austrian Judoka Claudia Heill also committed suicide due to depression. Claudia won a silver medal in 2004 and placed 5th in 2008 (which, in the sport of judo, means she lost the bronze medal match in the finals).
I was explaining the Olympic process to my students at the University of Central Florida this year in their Introduction to Sports Science class. I told them that when you push the envelope for high performance and expectation monumental things can occur. Some of them GREAT and some of them DISASTROUS. But the person is NEVER, ever the same. Never.
I truly believe that more research, care and attention needs to be paid to this issue. I’ve tried to bring it to the forefront along with my friend, former client and Olympic teammate, Taraje Williams-Murray.
I sincerely hope that the family of Ms. Ivaschenko find relief and comfort in some way during this time.
Dedicated to your Improvement,