Michael Phelps opens up about battling anxiety, depression

Swimming great Michael Phelps revealed that he has battled severe anxiety and depression for much of his life which drove him to consider suicide after his success at the 2012 Olympics. (Shutterstock)
Updated 20 January 2018
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Michael Phelps opens up about battling anxiety, depression

LOS ANGELES: Swimming great Michael Phelps revealed that he has battled severe anxiety and depression for much of his life which drove him to consider suicide after his success at the 2012 Olympics.
Speaking at a mental health conference in Chicago on Tuesday, the 23-time Olympic gold medal winner talked openly about his long battle with crippling depression and is encouraging others to get help like he did.
“After every Olympics I think I fell into a major state of depression,” the 32-year-old Phelps said.
Phelps said he reached rock bottom following the 2012 Olympics in London where he won four gold medals and two silver. For four days he remained in his room without food or sleep.
“I didn’t want to be in the sport anymore,” he said. “I didn’t want to be alive.”
When he hit a low point in his depression, Phelps said, “You do contemplate suicide.”
Over the past two years Phelps has opened up about his struggles. Once again, Phelps said his depression and anxiety problems have been a staple of his life for the past 17 years.
“We’re supposed to be this big, macho, physically strong human beings, but this is not a weakness,” he said. “We are seeking and reaching for help.”
Phelps won his first gold medal in 2004 at the Athens Olympic Games. That same year the 15-year-old from Baltimore experienced his first “depression spell.”
Phelps said as he got older his depression led to his abusing drugs and alcohol.
In 2008, after winning a record eight gold medals at the Beijing Games, Phelps was photographed smoking from a bong. He has also been arrested twice for drink driving.
“It would be just me self-medicating myself, basically daily, to try to fix whatever it was that I was trying to run from,” he said.
Phelps isn’t the first Olympic national hero to battle dark demons outside the pool.
Australian Ian Thorpe, who broke 22 world records, wrote in his 2012 autobiography that not only did he consider suicide but he planned ways and places to do it in.
Like Phelps, Thorpe chose to “self-medicate” with alcohol to try and manage his vicious mood swings and silence the horrible thoughts going through his head.
In an interview with CNN this week, Phelps said he wants to eliminate the stigma associated with mental illness.
“(Mental illness) has a stigma around it and that’s something we still deal with every day,” said Phelps. “I think people actually finally understand it is real. People are talking about it and I think this is the only way that it can change.”
Phelps retired after the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio as the most decorated Olympian of all-time, winning 28 Olympics medals.


Result against Brazil doesn’t matter, says Argentina legend Mario Kempes

Updated 16 October 2018
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Result against Brazil doesn’t matter, says Argentina legend Mario Kempes

  • Argentina legend admits side is in transition and says the performance matters more than the result.
  • Argentina likely to be changed from the side that thrashed Iraq 4-0 on Thursday.

LONDON: Argentina legend and 1978 World Cup winner Mario Kempes said the Albiceleste must focus on building a team as they take on Brazil in a friendly on Tuesday in Jeddah. 

“The game against Brazil is important because I wouldn’t attribute too much importance to the result, but rather focus on how you can form a good team,” Kempes told Arab News.

“It is a new team, it is a new coach. For me, the result isn’t interesting, but the development and the performance of the players are.”

On Friday, Argentina thumped a hapless Iraq 4-0 with a dominant display as Lautaro Martinez, Roberto Pereyra, German Pezzella and Franco Cervi all beat Iraqi goalkeeper Jalal Hassan to ensure a resounding victory.

The South Americans fielded an experimental side without star players Lionel Messi, Sergio Aguero and Gonzalo Higuain, but overcame a defensive opponent in the second half following the introductions of Eduardo Salvio and Santiago Ascacibar, the substitutes allowing Argentina to play more direct. 

“It was important to win in this new chapter with new players and a new coach,” Kempes explained.

“These are players that haven’t really been long with in the squad of the national team and that is why it was significant to beat Iraq.” 

Brazil will provide Argentina with a first stern test after a disappointing World Cup in Russia, where they exited the tournament 4-3 at the hands eventual champions France in the second round. Argentina’s interim coach Lionel Scaloni, who took over from Jorge Sampaoli, has confirmed that only Sergio Romero, Pezzella and Paulo Dybala will be retained from the Iraq friendly, with the coach pondering Atletico Madrid’s Angelo Correa as a replacement for Martinez. 

In the final third Scaloni will count on Mauro Icardi. The Inter Milan striker, who has endured a lackluster start to the Serie A season, debuted for Argentina in a 2013 World Cup qualifier, but never established himself in the squad. It was rumored that Messi was behind Icardi’s exclusion from the team over personal entanglements. Icardi also did not make the final squad for the this summer’s World Cup. 

“Icardi hasn’t had a great past with Argentina, because he couldn’t show himself much,” said Kempes. “I think that Icardi should always be in the squad. He played only against Uruguay and later he wasn’t called up again. This time he gets a new chance and he has to size it.” 

Whatever impact Icardi may have against Brazil, the striker will not camouflage the glaring absence of Argentina’s superstar and talisman Lionel Messi, but Kempes, who scored two goals in the 1978 World Cup final against the Netherlands to secure Argentina’s maiden world title and today commentates for ESPN, believes this is a chance for Argentina to plant the seeds for a new team and rebuild. 

“You need a competitive team, a team that doesn’t simply depend on Messi,” the 64-year-old said.

“The team and Messi played together for practically 10 years and it is a pity that Argentina never won anything. Good, a change is needed from all, but not from Messi. I think Messi wants or needs rest. You need to give him rest and he may return fresher. Let us first find a team that plays without Messi. Once you have that team, you can play Messi again. Why? Because he is going to make the difference.” 

Messi’s national team future remains in doubt, but Argentina will look to next year’s Copa America in Brazil as a benchmark to measure progress. In 2015 and 2016 the Argentineans were on the wrong end of the last two continental finals when Chile prevailed twice on penalties after goalless draws, but Kempes sees next year’s tournament being a more transitional one for the Albiceleste.

He said: “I believe that Argentina has to use the Copa America in the sense of informing the team about big games when you will form a team, and not to win the tournament.

“Argentina can play a good role, seeking a balance between the players on the field.”