Stephanie Labe made what all athletes dream of, when she won the gold medal for the Canadian national soccer team during the Olympic Games in Tokyo.
But the Olympic adventure has had everything else come in handy for Labbé’s mental health.
Throughout the tournament, she suffered from panic attacks that later left her mentally and emotionally exhausted.
Now the PSG goalkeeper is taking the floor to give players better tools to deal with mental challenges, both on and off the field.
Anxiety and panic attacks
Already in the opening match of the tournament, Labbé sustained an injury. However, the continuation of the game will not cause more harm. Thus, she decides that she can continue despite the severe pain.
But the physical pain was supposed to drown out something else.
I had no idea that this injury would lead to a fundamental impairment of my mental state. My adrenaline was so high and my neuromuscular system was so finely tuned that I struggled to get off between fights. This eventually led to a high level of anxiety and several panic attacks, it says in a press release from FIFPro, to which Dagbladet has been granted access.
– I got to a point where I couldn’t train between the quarter-finals and the final because I was over-motivated.
Labbe stresses that it was not related to performance anxiety. It was more than the result of a demanding epidemic year and replacements in the technical staff.
But when the referee blew up the final match between Canada and Sweden, Lappe was expecting an incredible rest.
Satisfaction never came.
– No matter how much I wanted to relax and celebrate with my teammates, I couldn’t get off my heightened state of consciousness. She says I spent 48 hours after the last game lying in a dark room.
The reaction was in stark contrast to what I witnessed during the Olympic Games in Rio five years ago. At the time, she let the Olympic bronze determine her identity. Now she has completely distanced herself from her performance, as she could not respond to congratulations or media inquiries.
– Only now, after a proper rest, can I receive the medal and feel connected to it with pride.
five years ago
The challenges began there: during the 2016 Olympics in Rio. At that time, Canadian football girls played for the bronze medal.
According to Labe, she was “exploding with pride” when all expectations were met. Then all the hard work paid off.
But then the pressure from the surroundings became too great.
– When it really got to the point that everyone wanted to talk about the medal and the trial, I began to feel an emptiness in me. I started feeling like this coin was worth more to me as a person and I think that started the vicious cycle for me, she says.
In the end, I learned to find the balance between athletic performance and what you deserve as a person, she continues. This made her able to appreciate her medal again.
American Championship Simone Biles has previously opened up about mental challenges during the Olympics, having for this reason pulled out of the team final in turn. Labe wrote in the statement that she sympathized with Biles.
– Because I know personally, that when it comes to mental and physical health they are not far from each other. The problem is that a mental challenge can be much more difficult to recognize and express, she says.
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