As Olympics end, athletes face new challenges
TribLIVE Sports Videos
LONDON — Most-decorated Olympian Michael Phelps, 27, is thinking about improving his golf game and traveling.
Gold medal cyclist Victoria Pendleton, 31, is looking forward to getting married and doing “normal stuff.”
Misty May-Treanor, 35, is carting her beach volleyball gold medal home to focus on family.
As the London Games end, some 30-odd retiring Olympians face the daunting question — what's next?
For world-class athletes who have focused their lives on training, their next task has no direct path: readjusting to a routine outside sports and creating a life that may or may not involve the limelight.
The challenges have given rise to a small field of advisers who specialize in helping retiring athletes cope with the abrupt change.
“These people have a strong Olympic identity; they see themselves only as athletes. Unless they have good friendships and connections outside of sport, it can be quite painful,” says Misha Botting, a sports psychologist at SportScotland Institute. “Most experience a low-mood state after the Games because it's such an exciting event.”
As gold medalists, Phelps, Pendleton and May-Treanor have endorsement and coaching possibilities beyond most top-level athletes, thousands of whom will be leaving London without a medal to gild their careers.
Some retiring athletes suffer depression, said retired gymnast Craig Heap, although he explained that he was “quite pleased” when he stopped competing at 29.
“I was looking forward to my retirement,” said Heap, 39. I had achieved my best and was looking to start another chapter of my life.”
Going back to a normal life may run more smoothly for athletes with a day job. But for those who have never worked, the task might be more challenging.
“We go through their future plan of career, their skills,” said Gary Penn, an adviser with the English Institute of Sport. “We look at their (résumés), help them apply for work.”
As awareness about the challenges of the transition spreads, initiatives to support retiring athletes are growing. Heap is a mentor for the DKH legacy trust set by British Olympian Kelly Holmes, which provides guidance to elite athletes as they move on to another career.
When Heap quit, he said, there was nowhere to turn for help. “I had to find my own way,” he said.
The ex-champion stayed in the sporting world by organizing gymnastics workshops in schools.
Academics can be key. Penn said well-educated athletes often end up in management, business or banking.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- 2 found dead in Harrison home
- Mother, baby found dead in Millvale apartment
- Steelers sign former ACC Player of the Year Boyd for QB depth
- Polamalu could be next in long line of Steelers greats given unceremonial exit
- Plum teacher’s attorney: Victim’s age a factor in sex assault case
- Route 422 closed after serious accident in Kittanning Township
- Allegheny County Controller candidates quarrel 2 days before Dem endorsement vote
- Scottdale man charged with raping child in 1990s
- Rossi: Kang would benefit from less attention
- Weather continues to cause crashes, public transportation delays
- Over the falls — Cucumber Falls that is — go 3 kayakers in Ohiopyle