The psychological implications of losing on the Olympic level

For an elite Olympic athlete a big loss can hurt mentally for years.

We take you behind the scenes this month with our timely Vancouver Games Blog, an insider perspective on sport medicine and science headlines, talking points, statistical data and emerging trends.

In an article on the American College of Sports Medicine website Sharon A. Chirban, Ph.D. writes about just how devastating a loss on a big stage like the Olympics can be – including potentially losing their identity as an athlete:

Reorganizing one’s identity following athletic loss can be one of the most challenging experiences an athlete faces after the rigors of training and mental preparation for the Olympic stage. Depending on the reasons for the loss (and they have ranged, in Olympic years, from family tragedies to catastrophic injury to burnout, to just not “having it” on the day of competition), the athlete can have a range of feelings from shame for self or for one’s country to anger and extreme feelings of disappointment and/or disorientation.

Some pick themselves back up and commit immediately to their next four years of training. This is a quick resolution to restore the identity and pursue their life path – as many athletes do, over and over. For others, the disillusionment, the pain, the shame can last for months, even years. For these athletes, its often the end of a long road and without glory. It can be devastating to try to make sense of the years of commitment to training and a disciplined lifestyle with an unintended outcome

Read the full article here.

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