The Australian sporting community is rallying around Stephanie Rice after the swimming champion went public with her secret struggles on Sunday.
Rice won three gold medals at the Beijing Olympics in 2008, breaking three world records in the process.
However her career was cut short by three shoulder surgeries and she was forced to step away from the sport in 2014.
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On Sunday, the 33-year-old opened up about feeling “depressed” and “irrelevant” after her retirement, especially while watching the recent Tokyo Olympics.
“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,” she 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.”
Outpouring of support for Stephanie Rice
Rice's brave admission sparked an outpouring of support from the Australian sporting community.
Winter Olympic champion Lydia Lassila commented: “As humans we’re not just one thing.
“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.”
Cricket great Matthew Hayden wrote: “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.”
Tim Cahill, Sally Pearson, Michael Clarke and Melissa Wu were among the many others to also send messages of support to Rice.
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