Emily Weiss Opens Up On Reasons For Medical Retirement: “This Is What Was Best”

Following the announcement of her medical retirement last week, Indiana junior Emily Weiss recently spoke to SwimSwam to describe why she was cutting her career short and what led her to come to the decision.

Weiss, who is the reigning Big Ten champion in the women’s 200 breaststroke and a two-time All-American during her time with the Hoosiers, revealed that the retirement was due to mental health reasons, something she’s been dealing with for the last two years.

“I did everything that I needed to do to cope with it,” Weiss told SwimSwam over the phone. “Schedules, medication, therapists, worked with my coaches, and, I guess just more bad than good was coming out of the sport, and so it just led up to this point.

“I would say there were up and downs, but ultimately in the end it just kept returning to pretty bad. It was also just that I just wasn’t as happy as I used to be, and so I think that that was also a big determinant as well.”

The Muncie, Ind., native was the 2020 Big Ten runner-up in the women’s 100 breast as a freshman, and also took third in the 200 breast before her debut NCAA Championship was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

As a sophomore, Weiss hit a personal best time of 2:07.20 to win that 2021 Big Ten title in the 200 breast, and also placed fifth in the 100 breast at the conference championships before placing 22nd and 24th in the 100 and 200 breast, respectively, at her first NCAAs.

Despite what she was facing outside of the pool, the 20-year-old said that she managed to have continued swimming success due to the constant work done with the IU coaches, along with the support from her friends and teammates, and staying busy in day-to-day life.

“When I was with them, I was very goofy and just joking around and everything like that,” she said of her fellow Hoosiers. “So that got me through day-to-day, we all worked together. Whether my teammates knew what was going on or not they helped me out a lot.

“But I think it was just the day-to-day things that kept me going. I would say it was just the little things that contributed to a lot.”

Weiss also said that retirement was something she thought about last season, but wasn’t able to wrap her head around it. She wanted to stick it out, because being a swimmer has always been part of who she is.

“Last year I think (retiring) was not an option for me,” she said. “I didn’t think it was an option to stop early because I’m like, ‘I’m gonna finish my four years, I’m a swimmer, that’s my identity, it’s always been my identity. I am that swimmer.’

“And then this year I worked with my therapist on that issue in particular because I think that was one of the things stopping me from making this decision. But also I had to take a look deep down and finally realize that I am falling out of love with the sport gradually over the years.

“It took a little while, and it took me having to take a step back and actually look at how I’m feeling about the sport in particular. So yeah, last year it wasn’t an option for me, but this year I think I worked on myself more than I ever have and so I actually realized what was going on.”

Weiss said she’s received nothing but support from her coaches and teammates since announcing her decision.

“They ultimately just want me to be happy and they want what’s best for me,” she said. “They’ve said that over and over throughout the years and they still want me to be successful and they’re still helping me out with that and trying to figure out certain things.

“They just want me to be successful in my future and they said that if stepping away from the sport meant that, then they 100 percent were supportive and everything like that, so I’m very thankful for that.”

Moving forward, Weiss has now geared her love of athletics into lifting, something she’s doing regularly. She’s also looking forward to putting more of a focus on her schooling for the next year and a half, which is in the fitness field.

“I’m very passionate about lifting. I do that six times a week, whether it’s lifting or just exercising in general,” she said. “I’m very passionate about fitness, and that’s going to be my career path, so I’m pretty excited about the coursework I have this semester because It’s going to be more in tune with what I want to do in my future.

“I’m a very schedule-driven person, so I’m organized, I enjoy planning out my day, setting certain times throughout the day for me to relax or do certain things for work and whatnot.

“But I’ve been pretty good so far, I’ve been a lot happier than I’ve been in a while.”

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stephen l wilson
4 months ago

Congrats to Emily on making an extremely important and difficult decision in her life and for her outstanding swimming career. I trust she will keep winning her battles with her mental health. Totally concur with a previous comment “mental health is no joke”…

Steve Nolan
4 months ago

You’re hearing it more and more folks, lifting >> swimming.


Last edited 4 months ago by Steve Nolan
Big 10
4 months ago

What is going on at IU? That might be the 3rd swimmer this year to retire from swimming. Might just be a coincident, but might be something to really look at

Reply to  Big 10
4 months ago

Ray Looze

Nada de Nada
Reply to  Bob
4 months ago

Late joining the party…What is the reputation of Ray Looze? How intense physically and mentally is being part of that team?

Reply to  Big 10
4 months ago

Been going on for years. Ray always has people retiring for medical reasons.

Nada de Nada
Reply to  Slade
4 months ago

Late joining the party…What is the reputation of Ray Looze? How intense physically and mentally is being part of that team?

4 months ago

While I’m sure this was and is an incredibly hard situation, Emily’s decision sounds like it was the right one for her, and it takes a huge step forward in decreasing the stigma surrounding mental health. I hope other swimmers, myself included, can learn from Emily’s example and work on our identities outside of the pool.

Same Same
4 months ago

Sounds like she’s made a great choice for herself. Not an easy decision I’m sure. She achieved so much and has so much to be proud of.

4 months ago

Not exactly what I was expecting. Really thought she had some major nagging injury.

Ian Finnerty
Reply to  SWIMGUY12345
4 months ago

Bad take. Mental distress is far worse than anything physical.

4 months ago

It’s pretty incredible to see so many young athletes are making these tough decisions to put their mental and physical health first. Those decisions are never easy, but seeing so many young people taking ownership of their wellbeing really highlights we’re starting to get things right as a sport/society. Also a wonderful example to all the young athletes that will follow them. It’s totally normal to struggle once in a while or for a period while being an athlete, but if being an athlete becomes the challenge itself, it might be time to take a step back.

About James Sutherland

James Sutherland

James swam five years at Laurentian University in Sudbury, Ontario, specializing in the 200 free, back and IM. He finished up his collegiate swimming career in 2018, graduating with a bachelor's degree in economics. In 2019 he completed his graduate degree in sports journalism. Prior to going to Laurentian, James swam …

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