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Former Australian swimming star Stephanie Rice has shared a confronting video she says was taken during the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, demonstrating how tough life after sport can be.
The triple Olympic gold medallist said watching the Games had been a confronting experience, with the video showing the 33-year-old in tears.
Rice said eh had been tossing up for weeks whether it was worth sharing the footage, in which she doesn't speak and ends with a brief smile.
She accompanied the post with a lengthy caption describing the difficulties of life after the highs of Olympic success.
The Queenslander became a household name at the 2008 Beijing Games, winning three gold medals in a standout performance in the pool.
“Watching the Olympics will always probably be tough emotionally for me, because it brings back so many strong emotions, both good and bad,” she said.
“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’."
Rice added that writing the caption for her video had once again brought her to tears, demonstrating the compromised position athletes are left in once their career comes to an end.
She said her success in the pool had masked 'insecurities' which were governing her private life.
“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.”
Aussie athletes throw support behind Stephanie Rice after Instagram post
Rice attracted a wave of support after her post, with many other Australian athletes sharing her perspective.
The likes of former Test batsman Matthew Hayden and former aerial skiing champion Lydia Lassila praised Rice for giving such a true glimpse into her life.
“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 said.
“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.”
Lassila thanked Rice for sharing where she was at in life, saying that it was natural to face challenges as life moves forward.
“We can be many things as we evolve through life... and each of these things will be different yet just as fulfilling,” Lassila wrote.
“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.”
Rice thanked Lassila for her comment.
Various other athletes threw their support behind Rice, including Melissa Wu, Michael Clarke, Melbourne Cup winner Michelle Payne and footballer Tim Cahill, Alanna Kennedy and Lydia Williams.
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