This subject is not treated enough, but as you know, high-level sports are very hard physically and mentally. Most people would say it’s normal, hard work pays off, and that’s how it is. They normalize the fact that it is super hard. But some athletes experience it differently than others.
Getting up in the morning at 5 a.m. for a workout, knowing there’s another one waiting for you later in the afternoon, and starting the same day over for years. For the times when it works to progress, of course, the athletes are happy and say to themselves it’s normal that I suffer so much; it’s worth it; at this point, they don’t think of the difficulty of the work accomplished but rather of the result. But on the contrary, when it doesn’t work, athletes tend to question everything, their way of working, their nutrition, and their attendance. It becomes a primary concern, there’s only that in their heads, and after a while, it becomes hard to bear mentally. It creates intense stress and anxiety. Suddenly they go through moments of depression and insecurity; they question their lives and sometimes do things they never thought they would do before. The worst part of all this is that they think they can’t talk about it, so they stay in their bubbles and lock themselves away. Everyone is suicidal because you never know when your life will take a turn for the worse and how you will react to it, but the most important thing is to be surrounded by good people.
Chad Le Clos is a South African swimmer who was at the top of the world previous years ago, he’s an Olympic, World, and Commonwealth Games champion. But now he doesn’t shine like before because every year there’s another swimmer who pops out, and you’re like, “it is not going to be easy at all.” Imagine that you’re working at the same frequency or even harder, but new swimmers coming from “nowhere” beats you. His mental health was damaged by it, and he noticed it when coming out of an Olympic final; he wasn’t even happy or excited.
He said, “I knew there was a problem when I walked out for an Olympic final, and I was so numb from the past seven months that I couldn’t really feel any emotion. It was almost like you could cut me; I wouldn’t feel it.”