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Michael Phelps, Lolo Jones, and Shaun White lift the lid on the horrific reality of Olympic Games

HBO is set to premiere a new documentary tonight about the mental struggles of Olympic athletes, in which the likes of Shaun White, Lolo Jones, Apolo Ohno, and more talk about mental health, money troubles, and even suicidal thoughts.

The Weight Of Gold, which premieres on July 29 at 9 p.m. and was directed by Brett Rapkin, is narrated by 23-time gold medalist Michael Phelps, who himself has been quite candid with his struggles with depression.

Through interviews with Phelps, White, Jones, Ohno, Sasha Cohen, Bode Miller, and more, the documentary explores the terrible mental toll that training for and competing in the Olympics can take — and how it has led to numerous suicides among star athletes.  

On tonight: HBO is set to premiere a new documentary tonight about the mental struggles of Olympic athletes

On tonight: HBO is set to premiere a new documentary tonight about the mental struggles of Olympic athletes

On tonight: HBO is set to premiere a new documentary tonight about the mental struggles of Olympic athletes

Telling the story: The Weight Of Gold, which premieres on July 29 at 9 p.m., is narrated by Michael Phelps

Telling the story: The Weight Of Gold, which premieres on July 29 at 9 p.m., is narrated by Michael Phelps

Telling the story: The Weight Of Gold, which premieres on July 29 at 9 p.m., is narrated by Michael Phelps

Opening up: Phelps has been candid about his mental health struggles and battle with depression

Opening up: Phelps has been candid about his mental health struggles and battle with depression

Opening up: Phelps has been candid about his mental health struggles and battle with depression

'We're lost,' Phelps said. 'We spent four years grinding for that one moment. And now we don't know what the hell to do. 'I didn’t want to be in the sport anymore. I didn’t want to be alive'

'We're lost,' Phelps said. 'We spent four years grinding for that one moment. And now we don't know what the hell to do. 'I didn’t want to be in the sport anymore. I didn’t want to be alive'

‘We’re lost,’ Phelps said. ‘We spent four years grinding for that one moment. And now we don’t know what the hell to do. ‘I didn’t want to be in the sport anymore. I didn’t want to be alive’

Most Olympic athletes have trained for the competition for their entire lives, with nearly all honing their skills since childhood. It becomes their sole interest and passion, and how they spend nearly all of their time.

‘I thought of myself as just a swimmer, and not a human being,’ Phelps says in the doc. ‘Nobody who is going to expend that kind of effort, to achieve that kind of goal, is going to be just like everybody else.’ 

So when it’s over, it’s no surprise that many would suffer what the film calls the ‘post-Olympic blues’.

In fact, Phelps says 80 per cent or more go through a ‘post-Olympic depression.’ 

‘After every Olympics, win or lose, I’ve just felt like a dramatic emptiness,’ Shaun White, who has won three gold medals for snowboarding, said, according to Refinery29.

‘Your whole world is built around this one day, and you’re putting so much on it. So much expectation, and pressure, and interviews… After every Olympics, there’s this incredible crash. Nothing really matters as much anymore.’ 

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Gold medal: Fellow Olympian Shaun White also appears int he documentary

Gold medal: Fellow Olympian Shaun White also appears int he documentary

Gold medal: Fellow Olympian Shaun White also appears int he documentary

'After every Olympics, win or lose, I've just felt like a dramatic emptiness,' he admitted

'After every Olympics, win or lose, I've just felt like a dramatic emptiness,' he admitted

‘After every Olympics, win or lose, I’ve just felt like a dramatic emptiness,’ he admitted

He went on: 'After every Olympics, there's this incredible crash. Nothing really matters as much anymore'

He went on: 'After every Olympics, there's this incredible crash. Nothing really matters as much anymore'

He went on: ‘After every Olympics, there’s this incredible crash. Nothing really matters as much anymore’

Several discussed thinking about suicide. 

‘We’re lost. We’re just so lost,’ Phelps said. ‘We spent four years grinding for that one moment. And now we don’t know what the hell to do.

‘I didn’t want to be in the sport anymore. I didn’t want to be alive … You do contemplate suicide.’

‘Post-2008, I was so broken down,’ Lolo Jones, a hurdler and bobsledder, added. ‘I would just want to be gone.’ 

David Boudia, a three-time Olympic diver, admitted that he thought, ‘what’s the point of going to the Olympic games, what’s the point of sacrificing and training all of these hours if this is what I have to show for it? 

Sadly, for several, thoughts have turned into action. The documentary looks at several Olympians who died by suicide, including bobsledder Pavle Jovanovic (who died this May at age 43), racing cyclist Kelly Catlin (who died in March 2019 at age 23), and skier Jeret ‘Speedy’ Peterson (who died in 2011 at age 29).

'Post-2008, I was so broken down,' Lolo Jones, a hurdler and bobsledder, added. 'I would just want to be gone'

'Post-2008, I was so broken down,' Lolo Jones, a hurdler and bobsledder, added. 'I would just want to be gone'

‘Post-2008, I was so broken down,’ Lolo Jones, a hurdler and bobsledder, added. ‘I would just want to be gone’

Realities: Jones also discussed money troubles, recalling watching a replay of her own Olympic performance on TV while working for minimum wage at a gym juice bar

Realities: Jones also discussed money troubles, recalling watching a replay of her own Olympic performance on TV while working for minimum wage at a gym juice bar

Realities: Jones also discussed money troubles, recalling watching a replay of her own Olympic performance on TV while working for minimum wage at a gym juice bar

She said: 'I've had years where I can make a killing, and then I've had years where... for bobsled, my check was $725 for the whole season. Tell me how I'm supposed to live off of that'

She said: 'I've had years where I can make a killing, and then I've had years where... for bobsled, my check was $725 for the whole season. Tell me how I'm supposed to live off of that'

She said: ‘I’ve had years where I can make a killing, and then I’ve had years where… for bobsled, my check was $725 for the whole season. Tell me how I’m supposed to live off of that’

Bobsledder Steve Holcomb was even interviewed for the film before he died in May 2017 by suicide at age 37.    

But according to those in the film, there is no support system in place to help those who are struggling, even though they make up the vast majority of the athletes involved. 

‘If I had blown out my knee, I know for a fact that I would’ve had the top physical therapist, the top surgeon… absolutely whatever I needed,’ figure skater Gracie Gold said. 

‘I mentioned one time before to someone in the federation that, actually I’m going through some really dark shit right now and it’s really interfering. And they said, “Oh, you can look up a therapist in your area.”‘

Phelps agreed: ‘I can say now, looking back at my career, I don’t think anybody really cared to help us. I don’t think anybody really jumped in to ask us if we were okay. As long as we were performing, I don’t think anything else really mattered.’ 

Other problems contribute to mental health troubles, including the often dire financial situations of the athletes. 

Tragic: The documentary looks at several Olympians who died by suicide, including bobsledder Pavle Jovanovic (who died this May at age 43)

Tragic: The documentary looks at several Olympians who died by suicide, including bobsledder Pavle Jovanovic (who died this May at age 43)

Tragic: The documentary looks at several Olympians who died by suicide, including bobsledder Pavle Jovanovic (who died this May at age 43)

Racing cyclist Kelly Catlin (who died in March 2019 at age 23) is also mentioned

Racing cyclist Kelly Catlin (who died in March 2019 at age 23) is also mentioned

As is skier Jeret 'Speedy' Peterson (who died in 2011 at age 29)

As is skier Jeret 'Speedy' Peterson (who died in 2011 at age 29)

Lost: Racing cyclist Kelly Catlin (who died in March 2019 at age 23) and skier Jeret ‘Speedy’ Peterson (who died in 2011 at age 29) are also mentioned in the film

Bobsledder Steve Holcomb was even interviewed for the film before he died in May 2017 by suicide at age 37

Bobsledder Steve Holcomb was even interviewed for the film before he died in May 2017 by suicide at age 37

Bobsledder Steve Holcomb was even interviewed for the film before he died in May 2017 by suicide at age 37

While some of the most famous winners go on to score sponsorship deals — Phelps and White being among them — those who get rich off the Olympics are well in the minority.

‘For every athlete who has a sponsor, there are hundreds who need to take a second job just to make ends meet while they’re training,’ Phelps said. 

And while they’re still training, many athletes are living on measly stipends and working minimum wage jobs.

Phelps revealed that for USA swim, the stipend was just $1,700/month, which comes to $20,400 a year.

At one point, Jones says she was living off just $7,000 a year. She remembers watching a replay of of her races on television while working at a gym juice bar, making $7 an hour.

‘I’ve had years where I can make a killing, and then I’ve had years where… for bobsled, my check was $725 for the whole season. Tell me how I’m supposed to live off of that.’  

'There are so many of us out there that really are struggling,' Phelps said in a Today show interview with Savannah Guthrie this morning

'There are so many of us out there that really are struggling,' Phelps said in a Today show interview with Savannah Guthrie this morning

‘There are so many of us out there that really are struggling,’ Phelps said in a Today show interview with Savannah Guthrie this morning

'We just have to change the perception that problems with mental health are something to hide,' he added

'We just have to change the perception that problems with mental health are something to hide,' he added

‘We just have to change the perception that problems with mental health are something to hide,’ he added

Yet most fans of the Olympics never realize that the athletes they cheer on are struggling quite so much, and with the film, Phelps hopes to further demystify mental illness and encourage more to seek help.

‘There are so many of us out there that really are struggling,’ he said in a Today show interview with Savannah Guthrie this morning.

‘It took five Olympics for me to really see it. And I think me being in the mental state that I was going into 2016 allowed me the opportunity to be open to have the interactions that I had with other athletes that led me to believe that there are others that are struggling and struggling very, very hard. 

‘It was wild to see that I wasn’t alone but it also made me feel good because there were other people that could help me understand that it’s OK to not be OK.’

He added that ‘It’s difficult to show vulnerability, especially as an athlete.

‘We just have to change the perception that problems with mental health are something to hide,’ he added. 

Source: Daily Mail

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