Olympic Silver Medalist Michael Jamieson Writes About Anxiety Struggles

Photo Courtesy: British Swimming

Olympic Silver Medalist Michael Jamieson Writes About Anxiety Struggles

Michael Jamieson described it as “the beginning of the end.” He was a week shy of his 24th birthday in 2012 when the native of Scotland won a silver medal at the London Olympics in the men’s 200 breaststroke.

But because of increasing struggles with anxiety, Jamieson wrote this week in an essay for a Scottish newspaper, the pressure that came with it eventually brought a premature end to his swimming career.

Jamieson shared his struggles with mental health as part of Mental Health Awareness Month in May, focusing in particular on the anxiety brought upon by his successes in the pool.

“The pressure I was putting on myself was unsustainable and it was really taking its toll,” Jamieson wrote in The Scottish Sun. “I couldn’t stay healthy, psychologically, and there was no way I’d be able to perform to my best ability.”

Jamieson had a very productive stretch that began with silver in the 200 breast at the Commonwealth Games in 2010. He would go on to bronze and silver at successive European Short-Course Championships and silver at Short-Course Worlds in 2012. The eventual Scottish Swimming Hall of Famer set British records at every stage during the Games in London, then waged an epic battle with Daniel Gyurta in the final, the Hungarian beating him by .15 seconds and requiring a world record to do it.

By the pressure of that accomplishment weighed so heavily on Jamieson that he was unable to be at his best for the 2016 Olympic qualification cycle, failing to earn a trip to the Rio Games. He retired that year at the age of 27.

Now a coach, he’s hopeful that sharing his experience can help others not feel the sense of isolation he did, in thinking he was the only one struggling.

“While I was struggling with my mental health — the anxiety ahead of big competitions, the severe lows when I thought training wasn’t going well — I didn’t speak to anyone about how I was feeling or the effect it was having on me,” he wrote. “I swayed between the idea that all pro athletes had the same experiences and there wasn’t any point making a big deal about it, to thinking I was all alone and no one else would understand.”

Read Michael Jamieson’s full essay here.

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