JANA Pittman is a two-time world champion in the 400m hurdles and has won gold at two Commonwealth Games and but never won gold at an Olympics, something she says constantly haunts her.
“I never hit the goal I was hoping to in my career. Growing up wanting to win the Olympic Games is all I ever dreamt of, I never made it,” the 34-year-old tells Insight host Jenny Brockie, during a special two-part edition of the SBS program, which begins tonight.
Grant Hackett’s very public fall from grace has ignited a conversation in Australia about how our elite sports people handle the transition to retirement and what can be done to help them face the realities of life outside sport.
Some of our most successful athletes — including former AFL star Barry Hall, Olympic diver Matthew Mitcham, basketballer Lauren Jackson and swimmer Libby Trickett — talk about how they’ve tackled the challenges that come with this new phase of life.
Pittman competed in the two-woman bobsleigh at the 2014 Winter Olympics and is currently pursuing a new career in medicine, but says she can’t help but hope that she will compete at the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.
“I have a beautiful family and three beautiful kids. I’m studying to be a doctor and I have so many things on, I can’t fit training in anymore. I’m not interested in being there [at the gym] but for some reason I can’t let go because that elusive gold medal never happened,” she said.
“I feel very fat. I feel like I just can’t stop eating. It’s been very hard to deal with whereas these guys [on stage] have obviously succeeded.
“My poor family, every minute I’m like ‘Retired Retired I’m done’ but then five minutes later I’m like ‘No I’m back at the gym can you come and look after the kids?’
“I can’t help but think [about Tokyo]. I need an off switch … I’d love a set of doctors to sit me down and say you’re done. I am going to be a doctor and I still can’t tell myself that I’m done.”
Mitcham won gold in the 10m platform dive at the 2008 Olympics and retired in January last year. He says having an identity outside sport is crucial to achieving happiness after your career ends.
“Having another identity other than sport is so important to have a purpose or just something else to move to so that you aren’t left floundering,” he said.
“We can still see that … even if you are prepared for it, there’s something about the loss of sport that can be so devastating.”
Former Sydney Swans star Hall retired from AFL in 2011, but says he battled depression after he quit and still is not “qualified” to do anything other than play sport.
“[There was] nothing to get out of bed for anymore … it was a real struggle. I’m a very driven person … I didn’t get out of bed, I didn’t take phone calls, I was eating terribly, I was drinking heavily … it was a tough time,” he said.
“I didn’t know at that time, but it was a form of depression. I started to set little goals for myself – I’d go the gym, I’d try and get PBs in a bench press or lat pulldown or a little goal to just get me out of bed.”
Since 2011 he has appeared in numerous commercials, was a contestant on Channel 10’s reality show I’m A Celebrity … Get Me Out of Here! and a commentator for Fox Footy. He says without these media commitments, he’d be without a source of income.
“I’m very lucky and fortunate that I was managed well and that I kept my profile ticking along, because I’m not qualified in anything to earn money,” Hall said.
“I’ve got no qualifications, so if I don’t get endorsement deals, what do I do? I’ve got no income.”
He owns several mechanic businesses with his family, but says “in terms of me actually going out and doing something or getting a job there’s probably not a lot I can do.”
Online Source: The NEWS