Post Olympic Stress Disorder: The Real Game After The Olympic Games Are Over

rhadi judo
2004 Judo Olympian and Strikeforce veteran Rhadi Ferguson

Post Olympic Stress: The Real Game After The Olympic Games Are Over
by: Dr. Rhadi Ferguson

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The Post Olympic Blues
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After the Olympic Games, things can get pretty rough.

I’ve seen athletes battle with bouts of depression, alcoholism, eating disorders and a myriad of issue which can all be directly or strongly correlated to the major emotional let down that occurs after the Olympic Games.

As much as we like to hear about the Michael Phelps and Usain Bolt types, the fact of the matter is this. You can most certainly be an Olympic superstar and medalist and end up sleeping in your car, as Ronda Rousey did following her 2008 Olympic bronze medal performance.  Going from the top of the imaginary Mount Olympus to the the bottom of the VERY REAL, “real world” is not only a humbling experience but one that most Olympians just don’t prepare for and therefore, experience with a great level of frequency.

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A Large Investment
With No Guarantees
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Not many people go into the Olympic Games with talk of retiring. Some do, but those are the really accomplished Olympians. Most of us have to sit down and ask ourselves after our competition is over, “Was this sh*t really worth it? I mean, can I really do this sh*t ALL OVER AGAIN with no guarantees?”  And those are the facts.  And many times, the deciding factor in that equation is money.

I remember being so broke that I was broken. After the Olympic I just sat down on the couch in my living room and cried.  I had no money. I had nothing. And I was prepared. I was in school. I was on the verge of starting a successful business and I was in a PhD program and married.  But, I was broke… and broken.  I was broke because, while training I was not working. And I was broken because I had just given my whole life to a pursuit. One in which I believed that I could be the best in the world in, and I found out that no matter how much I trained and no matter how much I believed, I just was not going to be the best in the world.  That reality hurt.

I remember being so broke that I was broken.
– Dr. Rhadi Ferguson

Most people never get to that point in life where they do everything. And I mean everything in their power, morally and ethically, to be the best and it just doesn’t turn out.

That creates the post Olympic Depression. That creates the fall. That creates the downward spiral. That creates the anger, disgust and pity which is combined with the pride, contentment and joy.  It’s quite the personal emotional elixir which is a cup that is very hard to drink from.

I too am full of emotion during the Olympics.  Most of the time I do not watch the Olympics. I cannot watch the Opening Ceremonies. I watch the 2008 Opening Ceremonies but not 2012 and not 2016 either. I never watch the Closing Ceremonies. One of the main reasons because I didn’t attend the closing ceremonies. I was injured, distraught and just wanted to get back home. Looking back on it, that was a mistake but at the time my shoulder pain mixed with the small, uncomfortable beds in the Olympic Village was not a good fit.  And the cortisone shot that I took in order to be able to compete with the torn labrum that I had in my shoulder had worn off and a life of pain and misery was all that I could remember dealing with during that time. So I had my ticket changed and I requested to go home.  And a week later I was on the operating table having another major surgery within a 13 month period. I spent 2 years of my life rehabbing. And that, in and of itself, is a story for another day.

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Some Advice From
An Olympian
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I know I’m all over the place with this post, but that’s kind of where I am when the Olympics are going on so I guess this post actually is in harmony with my feelings right now.  But here’s what I want to tell you and it’s a piece of advice that I provide to all non-Olympians. They are 3 simple things.

  1. When you meet an Olympian PLEASE do not allow your first, second or third question to be,  “Did you win a GOLD MEDAL?” LOOK!!!!! There is nothing that pisses us off more than that! Winning an Olympic Gold medal is SUPER rare. It may not look like that because of what you are presented with on television but, trust me when I tell you, it is. The best thing to ask is, “So how was your Olympic experience?”  or “How did you do? Where you pleased with your performance?” 
  2. Please do not post on social media or agree with people who believe that they can sit on their couch and watch the Olympics and just decide to train “tomorrow” and make the next Olympic Games. That is so disrespectful and irritating.  (But we can’t say anything because you all will call us “dream killers.”) It does NOT work like that. I can see if you are currently training or have been training but to think that you can watch the Olympics and then just ZIP BY EVERYBODY in the world and walk around the track at the Opening Ceremonies and compete with the big dogs in 4 years is crazy. (side note: I know a few people who have pulled off something similar.  This guy writing this post said something similar and did it in 5-1/2 years BUT I was training and doing other sports. And if you do believe, do post it. Just start training and then post and report how the TRAINING is going.)
  3. Be very aware that the Olympics are the World’s Biggest Sporting Event so when people get nervous or falter, it’s not because they “choked.”  It’s just because, there’s no way to prepare for the Olympics unless you have gone to the Olympics. I remember Jimmy Pedro telling me this. You have to go in order to know. Or be really fortunate to have a coach who has gone who you will be willing to listen to without reserve.  The bottom line is this, be cool and temper what you say.  People don’t get a do-over or another chance “next week” or “next season.”  For most people, the devastation from the Olympics is career ending.  Most people have to resign to the fact that THIS OLYMPICS, very well, may be their last one.

Thank you so much for reading. I do enjoy sharing from time to time. And I hope that you enjoyed the Olympics and were inspired to do more, be more and achieve more.


Olympians Dr. Rhadi Ferguson and Taraje Williams-Murray also wrote a book entitled  The Olympian’s Success Paradox: When The Games Are Over, Managing Post Olympic Stress Syndrome In Olympic Athletes” where they discuss the post Olympic Blues phenomenon and it affect on the athletes, the city and the spectators.  It’s available on Amazon.com

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