Some high-profile Australian athletes, including Olympic and world champions, have opened up on their post-sport difficulties in a revealing ABC documentary.
After the Game, an ABC TV’s Four Corners investigation that aired on Monday night, featured interviews with a range of prominent athletes, including Lauren Jackson and Stephanie Rice.
Jackson, a 2006 world champion with the Opals, said she misused medication in a bid to continue her glittering career.
“There are high stakes. You’re getting paid a lot of money to perform, and when you’re a franchise player or someone that is expected to perform day in, day out, you do what you have to do to get by,” she said.
“For me, that was pain killers and sleeping pills. After games I’d be in so much pain that you just want to go to sleep. Oh my god. It was just a nightmare. So, having to get off everything was really, really, really hard.”
Jackson said she fell in a heap after received a diagnosis that her knee had “turned to mush”, ending her career.
“One of my good friends from America, one of my team-mates, said to me, ‘you know, athletes die two times’. And it’s true. Once your career is over, you’ve got to recreate yourself in a way that other people just don’t have to,” she said.
“The doctor sort of said to me, like, ‘You’ve got no chance, your knees are not going to do it’. And I just broke down. I was in tears. To say goodbye to my love, what was my life, my identity, which was so wrapped up in basketball … it just hurts, it hurts a lot.”
Rice, who won three gold medals at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, said she confronted personal demons after retiring. “Everything that I knew about myself and prided myself on, my confidence, came from swimming,” she said.
“So take away the vehicle that gave me all of those feelings and all of that pride and confidence, it was like ‘who is Stephanie Rice?’ because I only knew Stephanie Rice the swimmer.
“One night I was the golden girl, triple Olympic gold medallist … and then wake up the next morning to be the worst person in the entire world. And it just happened like that.”
The documentary showed ways that several sports are grappling with mental health challenges.
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