Winter Olympics and Beyond
By Megan Smiley, Feb 16 2018 03:08PM
I tweaked a muscle in my shoulder yesterday which meant I had to stop the full body strength training session I was halfway through and transition the session into a lying down leg and ab focused workout! I was annoyed as it messed up my training plan for the week, plus it is pretty sore to turn my head to the left...
I then got some perspective on the situation as I was thinking about the 3,000 athletes currently competing at the Winter Olympics, and all the others that trained but because of an injury/situation weren’t competing. For people where sport is not only their passion and profession but their whole life, what must it feel like to pick up an injury or illness resulting in missing your chance you’ve been building up to and worked so hard for? Also, what about those cruel mishaps like Elise Christie’s hand getting knocked and her missing out on a medal in the short-track speed skating, especially after missing out on a medal in all three of her disciplines in Sochi four years ago.
To many the thought of being a top athlete where training is your job, might sound like a lot of fun but as with many things, the grass is always greener from afar. Whilst training and competing the pressure is immense, the training relentless and the sacrifices many. The money side of things can also be difficult, with funding and sponsorship limited to those at the top of their game, it can often be a struggle to support the training programmes, diet and lifestyle required.
But what seems like the hardest part is retirement, which even if they have a long and injury-free career, is very early compared to most others professions. There can be a difficult transition into “normal” life, and apart from coaching or commentating, for which there isn’t the demand to accommodate the number of retired athletes, then there isn’t always a clear career path for them. Although “past it” in the world of competing these are people who are still in their prime but often feel lost, lacking an identity and purpose now that they’re out of the adrenaline-fuelled limelight.
Then there are the physiological effects from reduced levels of exercise and new lifestyle patterns that can cause all sorts of issues too, and the social side of things - often when competing they are surrounded by people and are part of a team, when retired they can miss these close relationships that for so many years have been a massive part of their life. The fact that the cases of depression and suicides in retired athletes is above average reflects what is a challenging and sometimes devastating time for some.
So I’ll be admiring and cheering on all the athletes currently in Pyeongchang, in particular Elise Christie in her next two races. I really hope she gets a medal not (just) for Team GB but for all the hard work she and so many others have put in.