Michael Phelps Prays That Tokyo 2020 Delay Will Not Cause Spike In Sports Suicides

Michael-Phelps-april-2014
Michael Phelps - Photo Courtesy: Azaria Basile

Michael Phelps, winner of 23 gold medals atop 28 Olympic podium places between 2004 and 2016, is praying “we don’t see an increase in athlete suicide rates because of” the postponement of the Olympic Games in Tokyo.

In an interview with NBC Sports, Phelps, an advocate for Mental Health and Wellbeing, on the back of his own depression and critic of the United States Olympic and Paraliymoic Committee, said:

“I really, really hope we don’t see an increase in athlete suicide rates because of this. Because the mental health component is by far the biggest thing here. This postponement is uncharted waters. We’ve never seen this before. It was the right decision, but it breaks my heart for the athletes.”

“Your whole life is pointed toward this moment,” Michael Phelps tells NBC. “And then this huge curveball. `Nope, you’ve got to wait another year.’ If this had happened to me, I would be completely flipping out at the uncertainty. I mean, speechless. Like, is this a bad dream?”

“All of this is so hard to wrap your head around. I just feel really badly for all the athletes who have made it this far. On the one hand, I’m relieved that they’re getting another year, and rightfully so. But the waiting also makes it a lot more difficult.”

  • Send in the Clowns: Swimming World today published an interview with Italian Junior head coach Walter Bolognani in which he reveals how mental challenges are some of the biggest hurdles to what comes next, not just for Olympic prospects but swimmers right through the ranks of the sport.

2018: When Michael Phelps Addressed His Depression In Public

What Michael Phelps Would Have Done If His Games Had Been Postponed

There was also a lighter side to the NBC interview with the 34-year-old father of three. When asked how he would have responded to a postponement in 2008, 2012 and 2013, his last of three Olympic Games in a career that began with a 5th place finish over 200m butterfly at the age of 15 at Sydney 2000, Phelps gave the following reflections, with a theoretical thumbs up for Beijing and Rio but a thumbs down as a no-show for London had it come to pass:

Beijing 2008 – a record eight gold medals

“I was totally locked and loaded. But I had broken my wrist six months before the Trials and I was still getting better, I would love to have had another year.”

London 2012 – four golds, two silvers as the most medalled man yet at the meet

“If the Olympics had been moved to 2013, I would have straight punted. I would not have shown up. That was the mental state I was in. I was mailing everything in, anyway, and I couldn’t have done that for another year.”

Rio 2016 five golds, 1 silver for a fourth street Games of six medals or more, including the regaining of gold in his signature 200 ‘fly

“I would not have given up. No way in hell. I wanted to finish something that I hadn’t finished right. I don’t know what it would have looked like with a year off, if those games were postponed, but I would have found a way. The climb back to the top of that mountain was the best time I had I my career.”

9 comments

  1. Mary-Helen Hopkins

    Honestly, I’d feel more like committing suicide if I had to go this year with pools widely closed and training ridiculously interrupted. Waiting till next year makes it more fair for everyone and will hopefully allow athletes to resume a proper training regimen before they show up for the “big kahuna”.

  2. avatar
    CJ

    What about all the US athletes that DIDN’T get to go to the 1984 Olympics. They were totally screwed over … their dreams over because of a political issue. Don’t say this is unprecedented… at least these athletes have a chance in a year… not four years thanks to Carter.

    • avatar
      Craig Lord - Swimming World Editor-in-Chief

      Postponement is unprecedented… and, sadly, the point you make reflects the historic inability of systems and governments and societies NOT to recognise what is recognised today. ‘Failure’ to recognise could be applied to those in positions of authority, oversight and guardianship who now know it but do nothing about it.

    • avatar
      Craig Lord - Swimming World Editor-in-Chief

      Good headline – that was the point!

  3. Jannette Colon

    Terrible headline, let’s lift each other with hope and optimism.

    • avatar
      Craig Lord - Swimming World Editor-in-Chief

      Good headline – that is the point he’s making … positivity (inc. false positivity that simply does not reach the people struggling) doesn’t work in such cases… read up on it…

  4. Montserrat Hidalgo

    Unbelievable headline!! Just what the world needs now, to be negative. I hope elite athletes are strong enough to undertand this pandemic crisis is bigger than anything else. People are loosing their jobs! People are diying for God’s sake!!! Time to step up to the challenge you champions!!

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