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Olympic Gold Medal Speed Skater Apolo Ohno Opens Up About The Mental Challenges Olympians Face

Southfield (CW50) - Whether they win a medal or not, Olympic athletes are put in a spotlight and are the focus of the entire world for two weeks. They train their entire lives for two weeks of glory for their country. But what kind of challenge do Olympians face who know they aren't returning four years later for the next games?

2-time Olympic Gold Medal Speed Skater, Apolo Ohno, joins Jackie Paige on Community Connect to talk about the mental challenges olympians face, and what he calls "The Great Divorce."

Apolo Ohno
Community Connect Host Jackie Paige, with 2-time Olympic Gold Medal Speed Skater Apolo Ohno

"It's a stark reality in which the day I decided to retire, the next two years that followed was a constant subconscious question in the back of my head of 'Is this it? Was this the peak state of my life? Is there something else better?'"

Ohno discussed the transition that Olympic athletes go through after years of training and after they compete in the Olympics, a transition that he dubbed "The Great Divorce" as an athlete's first true love is sport and is the path to the Olympics, and there's a moment in their life when they decide to give it up and many athletes mentally struggle with this "divorce."

Saguenay_500m (Credit Noelle Neu)
Olympic Speed Skater Apolo Ohno (Credit: Noelle Neu)

"I think the reality is that transition from one identity to the next is incredibly difficult... We are externally given these signals that this is the only thing that we have to offer, and we are celebrated for and such for those things."

ApoloOhno (Credit Noelle Neu)
Olympic Speed Skater Apolo Ohno (Credit: Noelle Neu)

After competing in four Olympic Trials and three Olympic Games, Ohno went through the same mental struggle that these athletes face but eventually found another path in his life, using his own story to guide others into using their determination and ambition to succeed in whatever they choose to do in life.

Since his time in the Olympics, Ohno has become an entrepreneur, an author, a public speaker, a broadcast commentator, and even won the reality ballroom dancing competition show "Dancing with the Stars."

See more of Apolo's interview here.

Watch COMMUNITY CONNECT, Saturday at 7am on CW50

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