- Simone Manuel, Olympic gold medalist, did not qualify for the Olympic team in Thursday’s tests.
- The 24-year-old said she was diagnosed with overtraining syndrome, a type of athletic burnout.
- The pandemic and being a black person in America in 2020 will add to its stress.
- Visit the Insider homepage for more stories.
New American champion Simone Manuel experienced depression, insomnia, decreased athletic performance, and other symptoms of overtraining syndrome earlier this year, she revealed during a emotional press conference Thursday.
Manuel had just missed qualifying for the Olympics during Thursday’s tests for the 100-freestyle race – the same event that, at the Rio Games, made her the first black-and-white innovator to win an individual Olympic gold.
At the press conference in Omaha, Manuel, 24, said she was proud of herself, given everything she had gone through in recent months. “I did everything I could to prepare for being my best at this meeting.”
Manuel still has the chance to go to the Olympics for the 50-meter freestyle. Rehearsals for that event began Saturday.
Overtraining syndrome occurs when the training load exceeds the body’s ability to recover
Manuel said she began to feel dizzy in January, and then her symptoms – including irritability, loss of appetite, “easy” workouts that feel hard, and a rapid heart rate even at rest – came to an end. to head in March. “Just walking up the stairs to the pool I was gassed,” he said.
Her doctor diagnosed her with overtraining syndrome, which occurs when an athlete’s training load nullifies its ability to recover. While the body’s stress forces it to repair itself and grow stronger, stressing it too much leads to the opposite: sore muscles, fatigue, poor mood and poor performance.
Manuel said the pandemic may have contributed to his burnout. “To focus on such a goal for five years instead of four is flawed,” he said. Being a black person in America in 2020 was also “brutal,” he said.
Manuel took 3 weeks off from each exercise
Manuel, with the support of his doctor, coach and sports psychologist, initially resumed his training. But it didn’t get any better, so he took three weeks of rest from the entire exercise just 11 weeks out of testing.
Getting back to the pool in April was “an uphill climb,” he said. “My body didn’t do what I knew it was capable of. I had moments where I didn’t even want to go to the pool because I knew it was going to be bad.”
But during Thursday’s race, she gave up everything she had and came within 0.02 seconds of making the U.S. team. “This is the first time I’ve presented myself at an event and even before I went for a run, I was proud of myself,” he said.
“I hope it inspires more athletes to feel that way,” Manuel said, wiping away his tears. “I feel like we’re not proud of ourselves until we achieve something so big. I’ve done it, I’m an Olympic champion, I know there’s even more.”
Olympic athletes learn about mental health
In the 2020 film “The Weight of Gold,” athletes say there is “an epidemic” of suicides and depression in their ranks but no easy way to get help. Olympians can be particularly vulnerable due to a lack of identity outside of their sport, financial pressures, public failures, and the enormity of dedicating your life to a single moment.
Michael Phelps, who produced the film, said little to Insider his mental health was “more frightening than ever” during the pandemic. He said, building daily practices like that
and exercise help. “So you can go ahead and keep going, going, going, and that’s what I’ve been able to do in my career,” he said.
That’s what Manuel does too. “Maybe it didn’t happen today, but it’s not the last time you see me and it’s not the last time I’m going to do something big in the pool,” he said. “I’m convinced of that.”