Olympic Gold Medalist Allison Schmitt Opens Up About Post-London Depression

To everyone around her, Olympian Allison Schmitt, appears to be the most cheerful girl in the room.  A jokester, a story-teller – someone who makes others laugh and whose smile is infectious.  Such is not always the case behind the scenes, however, as the five-time Olympic medalist has bravely opened up about her post-2012 Olympics bout with depression.

In an interview with the Associated Press last weekend at the Arena Pro Series meet in Charlotte, Schmitt described how, immediately following her performance in London, she started “feeling depressed” and not being able to identify exactly why.  Confounding to be sure, as Schmitt had performed incredibly at those Olympic Games, earning an individual gold in the women’s 200m freestyle, silver in the women’s 400m freestyle, as well as three medals as a member of the women’s 4×200 freestyle, 4×100 freestyle and 4×100 medley relays.

But, the success was not enough to let Schmitt bask in her Olympic glow. “I didn’t like myself,” Schmitt told the AP. “I didn’t like that I was feeling like that. I thought if I suppressed it, it would go away. But it was something where I needed help from outside sources.”

Returning to the University of Georgia after the Games, Schmitt was not seeing her usual gains in the pool and even failed to qualify for the 2013 World Championships squad, as well as the American team headed to 2015 Worlds in Kazan this summer.  Regarding her inability to get things back to her Londonesque-self, Schmitt said, “I don’t want to say it was (a lack of) confidence at the pool….it was more about the confidence in myself.”

“Maybe the post-Olympic blues started it, and it just kept crashing down from there”, she continued. This inner struggle was ever-present both in the pool and out most recently, as Schmitt was faced with a terrible personal tragedy in the form of a younger cousin committing suicide just a couple of weeks ago.

Without getting into any detail regarding treatment or even an official diagnosis, Schmitt stressed in the interview that it is important to let others dealing with any form of mental illness know that they are not alone.  “I know a lot of athletes who are very strong, who have a strong will, a strong passion,” Schmitt said. “They don’t really like to show their other side, their emotional side. That’s something very prevalent in athletes. That’s something in the future I would like to work on, to let them know it’s OK not to be OK.”

Schmitt will be representing the United States at the Pan American Games in Toronto this summer and will be joining Coach Bob Bowman at his new post as head of the Arizona State University swimming and diving program. Embodying the positive outlook Schmitt holds for others, longtime coach Bowman commented of Schmitt, “I’m not concerned at all.  I have no doubt she can get back to where she once was.”

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Katherine Brown
7 years ago

I taught Art in Canton Mi elementary schools…I’m wondering which elementary school she attended in Canton

Melanie White
7 years ago

Why is she not wearing the USA team swimsuit? Is she really getting paid by Adidas to break ranks and wear for them and why is she allowed to do this selfish, unpatriotic act?

7 years ago

Allison – you are a brave young lady – addressing and sharing your story will be one of the most important things you will do in your life – work hard – dont be afraid of treatments or drugs- but be the master of your own fate – if it doenst feel good dont do it – be your own advocate – and life will be good!!!!! Congrats on your tremendous Olympic achievements as well as your personal growth – learn to love yourself – you only get this one kick at life!!!!! (I am a 65 year old survivor of abuse depression and mother of 2 children who suffer from 2 different types of depression and now with 9… Read more »

David Christine
7 years ago

allison. u said it all. depression can kill and family members will leave. its ok they are ignorant of the disease we all share. the crash of accalades stopping when the olympics were over can do it. i have it also. thanks allison stay in the monent. drc phd

Cheryl Haas
7 years ago

Allison you are, no matter how you place in the Olympics, a true champion for having the courage to speak out on the topic of depression. I am a teacher who has been through this illness myself and know personally what it is like. I have also lost young family members to the disease. Only through education and removing the stigma attached to seeking treatment can we help the next person who experiences the symptoms. You have a unique platform from which to help people, especially young men and woman, realize the importance of learning about mental health. Thank you for being brave enough to speak up. My dream is that someone like you will come into elementary schools and… Read more »

Katharine Rubin
7 years ago

Allison, I have a great deal of encouragement for you. You will win!!!

Christopher Baskel
7 years ago

This message is for Allison Schmitt.
Thank you Allison for your advocacy to help others. I suffer from medication resistant depression . I found something that actually changed my life and relieved my depression . Recent studies have shown a correlation to bacteria in our gut or intestines and depression . After researching the topic I found that taking probiotics that target this bacteria have made an unbelievable difference in my life.
They may not work for everyone but you may want to try it and also advise others to try it. Since its natural it has no side effects

7 years ago

I hope she qualifies for Rio 2016. We all wanna see her. She is in one of my all time favorite olympic races.

About Retta Race

Retta Race

Former Masters swimmer and coach Loretta (Retta) thrives on a non-stop but productive schedule. Nowadays, that includes having just earned her MBA while working full-time in IT while owning French 75 Boutique while also providing swimming insight for BBC.

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