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‘Lost, depressed and irrelevant’: Swimmer Stephanie Rice reveals post-retirement struggle

by ZwemZa on September 14th, 2021

Stephanie Rice (centre) won three gold medals at the 2008 Olympics. (Steve Christo SCZ)

The Australian sporting community has rallied around former swimmer Stephanie Rice after the three-time Olympic champion revealed her struggle transitioning from the sport.

After spending a month deciding whether to share her story, Rice posted a brief video on social media of herself in tears, which was filmed during the Tokyo Olympics.

The 33-year-old did not speak in the clip, which ended with a brief smile, but included an emotional caption revealing how she felt “depressed” and “irrelevant” after injury plagued the latter part of her career before retiring in 2014.

Rice won three gold medals in Beijing 2008 and watching the recent Games brought back a flood of emotions, not all of them good, she said.

“Many athletes and high performers speak about the challenges they face with mental health around transition,” Rice wrote.

“For me, transitioning was f…… hard … and still is at times. After swimming, I felt lost, depressed, irrelevant and as though I had achieved the pinnacle of my life at 24 and everything moving forward would be far less exciting and special.

“So in order for me to move on, I had to completely let go of the person I was as an athlete and rediscover myself without the title of being ‘a swimmer’.

“This bought up loads of deep-seated insecurities that I was able to hide by the validation and recognition I got by being a gold medallist.

“Honestly, now, after doing so much ‘work’ on myself, I truly am so so happy and content. I love my life and the people in it.

“But watching the Olympics reminds me of the person I was back then and it’s still hard not to feel sadness that that part of me is gone and isn’t coming back … and that’s what the tears are for.”

Rice’s post resonated with a number of Australian sports stars, including cricketing great Matthew Hayden.

“I’ve always been amazed by how God created us all different and special. Each with our own identity and uniqueness, our fingerprints are undeniable evidence of this basic truth,” Hayden wrote.

“Steph your efforts poolside were amazing testimony to your drive and energy to champion the sport but this post and many more to follow I suspect have the power to transform others which makes you a champion of life. Thank you.

“Sending you good energy and love to keep leading us all in mental fitness.”

“We can be many things as we evolve through life … and each of these things will be different yet just as fulfilling,” Lassila said.

“You have an incredible skill set … a lot of it was developed as a champion swimmer. These skills and traits carry through and are sooooo valuable. Love you xx.”

Other Australian athletes to offer support on Rice’s post include Olympic champion Sally Pearson, former Aussie cricket captain Michael Clarke, football star Tim Cahill and Melbourne Cup winner Michelle Payne.

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