The Australian sporting community is rallying around Olympic swimmer Stephanie Rice, who has shared an emotional message to Instagram.
Former Olympic swimmer Stephanie Rice has shared an emotional message regarding her mental health, which prompted an overwhelming show of support from the Australian sporting community.
Rice recently featured in Channel 7’s Sunrise coverage of the Tokyo Games, providing analysis of the action in the pool.
But during the Olympics, the 33-year-old broke down in tears and spent a month tossing up whether to post the clip to social media.
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On Sunday, Rice uploaded the short video and revealed why she felt “depressed” and “irrelevant” after stepping away from the sport in 2014 after undergoing three career-ending shoulder surgeries.
“I tossed around with posting this for a month or so because it’s important for me to try and articulate the raw emotions of this in the truest form,” Rice wrote on Instagram.
“Watching the Olympics will always probably be tough emotionally for me, because it brings back so many strong emotions, both good and bad.
“Many athletes and high performers speak about the challenges they face with mental health around transition.
“For me, transitioning was f***ing 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 heartfelt words struck a chord with several other Australian sporting greats, including five-time Winter Olympian Lydia Lassila.
“As humans we’re not just one thing,” Lassila wrote.
“We can be many things as we evolve through life … and each of these things will be different yet just as fulfilling.
“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.”
Former Australian cricketer Matthew Hayden commented: “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.
“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.”
Olympic champion Sally Pearson, former Australian Test captain Michael Clarke, football great Tim Cahill, diving star Melissa Wu and Matildas defender Alanna Kennedy also showed their support for Rice.
Rice shot to stardom in 2006 after winning two gold medals at the Commonwealth Games in Melbourne.
But the Queensland cemented her place in the history books by breaking three world records and winning three gold medal at the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games.