‘Lost, Depressed, Irrelevant’: Stephanie Rice Opens Up about Post-Swimming Struggles

Stephanie Rice ISHOF Honoree

‘Lost, Depressed, Irrelevant’: Stephanie Rice Opens Up about Post-Swimming Struggles

Australian Olympic champion Stephanie Rice opened up this week about her post-swimming struggles and the challenge of transitioning back to non-swimming life.

Rice posted a short clip to her Instagram feed of her crying, a display of the “strong emotions, both good and bad” that she had agonized about posting about.


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by STEPHANIE RICE (@itsstephrice)

Rice posted about the struggle of re-crafting an identity as something other than a swimmer following her retirement. (It’s a process that her contemporary, Markus Rogan, spoke at length about in an interview with Swimming World earlier this year.) The emotions were churned up by Rice watching this summer’s Tokyo Olympics.

Rice wrote in part:

Many athletes and high performers speak about the challenges they face with mental health around transition. For me, transitioning was fuc*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 & 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 Medalist.

Rice, 33, is a decorated Olympian. She did the women’s individual medley double at the 2008 Beijing Olympics and added a third gold medal in the Aussie 800 freestyle relay at the age of 20. She has seven Worlds medals (two silver, five bronze) to her name. She was still swimming at a high level at the 2012 Games, finishing fourth in the 200 IM and sixth in the 400 IM. She retired from the sport in 2014 and was inducted to the International Swimming Hall of Fame in 2019.

Since retiring, Rice has coached in the United States, has been involved in various sports (including esports) ventures and worked with Australia’s Channel 7 on commentary of the Tokyo Games.

Stephanie Rice ended her post on a positive note, saying that:

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.


  1. avatar

    Steph a swim masters record is good to try a 105yr old japanese swimmer holds such .Age is just a number believe and achieve🙂

  2. avatar
    Terry Watts

    After swimming, I followed Phish for 20 years. Now my son has started his swimming career and I’m a Swim Dad…

  3. avatar
    Lynn Lawler

    It’s definitely hard to go from total focus and all your time in a successful career…even for champions…to doing nothing or having no plans after retirement. It doesn’t matter if you are retiring from swimming or retiring from the workforce. Transitioning is much less painful if you are retiring TO instead of FROM your main occupation. This sets you up and incentivizes you for the next phase of your career and life.
    And if you suddenly stop swimming and working out…that’s another shock to your body physiologically…muscles atrophy and withdrawal from the mood elevating ENDORPHINS !!
    Glad you are happy and fulfilled now, Stephanie! I’m sure you will do well in whatever you decide to do!

  4. avatar
    Christian Hayden

    I totally understand your emotions on leaving the sport. While I have not achieved nearly the medals and recognition that we have all been accostomed to, there is always a big hole in our lives upon exiting. I’m in my fifties now, and still have the sense of what could have been… The thrills of beating a time, or an opponent, still live with me to this day. Thank you for sharing the love of a sport, and the love of competition. Bless you!!!

  5. avatar

    Life is a journey and you don’t always stay on the motorway., sometimes you have to change direction and try to take a short cut that could be a culdesac .but always remember you have that option to turn back and rejoin the motorway. and that’s always an option. Always be nice to yourself,and just be the best you can. It’s your journey and your choice. Sometimes you have to change direction to reach your destination and that’s no harm . So enjoy the challenge and be nice to yourself.on the way. Best wishes.☘️🙏

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.