Kliment Kolesnikov Says Olympics Aren’t Everything, Shares Mental Health Perspective

Russian world record holder Kliment Kolesnikov spoke openly on the perspective he gives to the Olympics and competition as a whole in a recent interview with TASS, saying that putting too much emphasis on swimming can weigh down other aspects of life.

Kolesnikov, 23, said that while the Olympics remain the highest level an athlete strives for, centering your identity solely around sport can lead to mental health struggles.

“It has not lost its meaning as a whole, the Olympics remains the best thing that can happen in the life of an athlete, but it is no longer the meaning of life – there is no need to connect them,” Kolesnikov said (via translation).

“By doing this, people then begin to suffer from depression. The right approach to this is: ‘It’s just like a competition, after which you forget about it all. Besides the Olympics and swimming, there are other things you can do and enjoy’.”

Kolesnikov made his Olympic debut in Tokyo, winning an individual silver medal in the men’s 100 backstroke (52.00) and an individual bronze in the 100 freestyle (47.44) while representing the Russian Olympic Committee (ROC).

He said that after experiencing the Games, they “absolutely” lost a bit of their luster in his mind.

“And not because sanctions were imposed. This happened immediately after the Olympic Games. Then my opinion about everything changed,” he said.

“You prepare for them as a boy who has a dream to get there and win. But in the end, you find yourself in a tough, reality-filled adult life, in which you understand that you are interesting only when you show something. Therefore, I rethought my goals and objectives – I just try to get the thrill of swimming, setting my personal bests and records peace.

“If you look at it from the perspective of an athlete, the Olympics are a cool competition, in terms of organization it’s an unattainable level: it’s cool to be part of the swimming community, to see guys from different countries. But looking at it from the outside after the performance, and understanding what this led to, it becomes awkward.”

Since Russian swimmers were banned from international meets in March 2022, Kolesnikov has still been thriving in domestic competition, including breaking the world record in the men’s 50 back in both short course meters (22.11) and long course meters (23.55) within the last 12 months.

He also swam a time of 51.82 in the 100 back (LCM) that ranks #2 all-time.

Russian athlete’s status on competing at the 2024 Olympics in Paris is still up in the air, though even if they do become eligible to compete, it will be as individual neutral athletes.

Last week, Russian Olympic Committee (ROC) Director Vladimir Sengleyev said it was unlikely Russia would be eligible to compete at either the 2024 or 2026 Games.

All-Russian Swimming Federation President Vladimir Salnikov has been vocal about his stance against Russian athletes competing as neutrals.

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2 months ago

This is a really healthy perspective to have; to compartmentalize swimming and keep it as it part of your life, rather than allowing it to become your whole life. How many swimmers have we seen become shellshocked for years after missing the Olympics or not winning gold? Good for him to be so young, so talented, and to realize that his self-worth is not tied to the sport he competes in. We need more of that.

2 months ago

He is talented swimmer. He is right on about mental health. Real question which would separate him from other members of russkii tribe – Is he supporting Russian war or not?

2 months ago

If Kliment Kolesnikov did not beat around the bush, why are there those who insist on reading between the lines?

I miss the ISL
2 months ago

The class gap between Kolesnikov and Rylov is insane. Kolesnikov seems very mature and well-spoken and Rylov…well…

Reply to  I miss the ISL
2 months ago

Rylov can’t really speak against the Russian regime, but I do agree double K is much more classy.

I recall he specifically wears a pink cap so his elderly Grandma can distinguish him. Pure class and heart and a great competitor.

2 months ago

Even from the outside looking in the Tokyo Olympics did not look to be the happiest environment at the time. It was nice as a fan of sport to see the show go on but it must’ve been uncanny for the athletes to be in such a sterile environment largely devoid of genuine fanfare. I think this realization is health regardless but I would also like to hear his thoughts after a more “normal” experience, though that’s rather dubious now.

Reply to  BeardedSwammer
2 months ago

I think each Olympics has a “feel” to it. Even for spectators. Your comment reminds me of a quote by Misty Hyman I read years ago….. When talking about the 2000 Sydney Games she said something like “those Olympics just felt as if they had ‘fairy dust’ sprinkled on them” (or something to that effect). Of course, she had a pretty good meet, but I remember (to me) they did feel so much ‘cooler’ and faster than the ’96 Games. The Aussies put on an awesome show! Tokyo did have a bit of solemn feel to it. Understandably.

2 months ago

Impressed with his maturity and understanding that swimming is not everything. I hate that someone so talented is blocked off from international competition because his country’s leader is a devil.

2 months ago

To all those that is saying he is just saying that because he can’t go…no he’s not…it’s a very healthy approach, and he’s absolutely right even dressel alluded to it…best times, happy life, and peace…these guys go to the Olympics but every time you hear them say it, they treat it just like another swim meet…just an exceptionally intense and fast one. That’s all. Life goes on they are human in the end and want the same things we all want. Peace love and health. Simple.

2 months ago

I believe this translates from the Russian into “sour grapes.”

Reply to  daimo
2 months ago

He must have asked Murphy for the recipe.

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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