PHELPS SPEAKS TO MIKE TIRICO:
“Simone and I are the best in the world at what we do, but how many other millions of people are out there going through the same exact thing.”
“As soon as I opened up, it was the greatest feeling in the world, a hundred-pound weight lifted off my back.”
“People are standing up and talking about it left and right and that’s what we need. We need more of that because I think, if we can do that, then we can break down this wall. The stigma can be gone, relieved, finished.”
Click Here to Access the Interview
TOKYO, JAPAN – Aug. 2, 2021 – Michael Phelps, the greatest Olympian of all time, spoke with NBC Olympics primetime host Mike Tirico about athlete mental health in a new special Sports & Mental Health: A Conversation with Michael Phelps that is streaming now across Peacock, NBCOlympics.com and the NBC Sports app.
During the interview, Phelps, who has won more total Olympic medals (28) and gold medals (23) than anyone in history, discussed Simone Biles, the pressure on Olympians, his own mental health struggles, and helping others.
Following are highlights of the interview. If used, please note the mandatory credit: “In an exclusive NBC Olympics interview…”
On the impact of Simone Biles’ recent mental health struggles: “Maybe we’ll see change. Maybe we’ll actually be able to help athletes. One of the things I’ve been frustrated about is the lack of change and lack of support we have for mental health both during competition and post-competition.”
On the impact of the pandemic: “My concern is, how many athletes are we going to lose? We already lost a handful to suicide. How many more can we lose? It breaks my heart. I’m one that knows exactly what that feels like. I know what it feels like to not want to be alive, and the ups and the downs and roller coasters that everyone’s gone through over the last two years, I’m afraid. I’m afraid for everybody else.”
On that it’s like to be on top yet alone: “Dark. Scary…I had one kind of moment here (in Tokyo) where I just spun a little bit. For me, it can happen whenever it wants. I can wake up one day and feel like a million bucks, and the next day I can wake up and feel like all I want to do is curl up into a ball and go into a black hole. That’s my life. I’m a human being. I experience emotions just like everyone else does.”
On what athletes struggling with mental health need: “We need support. We need to be able to find a safe place…I think the biggest thing is understanding it and accepting it…I feel like I’m alone sometimes, like I’m the only one that can ever go through something like this, but it’s not the case. There are millions of people that are going through the same exact thing that I do or the same exact thing that Simone is going through. The same exact thing as Naomi Osaka, Kevin Love, all of these athletes. People are standing up and talking about it left and right and that’s what we need. We need more of that because I think, if we can do that, then we can break down this wall. The stigma can be gone, relieved, finished.”
On opening up about his own mental health struggles: “I guess I was afraid to open up because I’m not supposed to show that vulnerability that weakness. If I show that side, then I’m giving my competitors something extra. No, I don’t want to do that…As soon as I opened up, it was the greatest feeling in the world, a hundred-pound weight lifted off my back.”
On personally helping other athletes: “I can’t say enough. I enjoy it. I love it. I thrive on it because I get to help somebody, but in turn it helps me, too. It comes back 100%.”
On helping young athletes: “There’s two things you can say: it’s okay to not be okay and be you.”
On advice: “That’s something I will say to every human being – communicate, communicate, communicate. Find a safe space…Control what you can control. If you’re going through a bad day, reach out for help…Simone and I are the best in the world at what we do, but how many other millions of people are out there going through the same exact thing. I hope they’re watching right now…This is real. Reach out for help. Know you’re not alone. Know it’s okay to not be okay. 100%.”
Phelps competed in five Olympic Games from 2000-16 and holds the world record in the 400m individual medley. He is also featured in two Peacock Original specials, Michael Phelps: Medals, Memories & More and The Greatest Race. For more information, click here. Stream the interview Sports & Mental Health: A Conversation with Michael Phelps on Peacock now here.
In 2008, he established the Michael Phelps Foundation to promote healthy, active lives, especially for children, primarily by expanding the opportunities for participation in the sport of swimming.