How the world's top athletes look after their mental health

There are over 150 episodes of the Olympic Channel Podcast and it has featured some of the best guests the Olympic world has to offer.
By Ed Knowles

From Olympic gold medallists Adam Peaty and Laurie Hernandez to world champion surfer Kelly Slater, the Olympic Channel Podcast feed is jammed with top quality content to help you find the best version of yourself.

We’ve compiled a list from a group of intensely focused athletes about their mental heath including how they cope with negative thoughts, how to use social media effectively, and how to have confidence in risky situations.

I think the best athletes in the world are the people who can control their emotions
Wrestler Jordan Burroughs

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British swimmer Adam Peaty is an eight-time world champion and believes that you can train your mind to be a better athlete.

He thinks that when you are feeling down – that’s the time to work even harder.

“I do have my kind of down days where I think I can't do it or I doubt myself. Everyone has them. We're only human. I'm not a superhuman person.

“I'm just a lad who worked harder than anyone else.”

Peaty is pitted against the planet’s best swimmers at races but he’s worked on mentally believing that the only person in a given competition is himself.

“I've realised in the last few years in this sport isn't against anyone else.

“(There are) people to the side of me. But they're not going to change how I perform or if I perform well.”



Being human sometimes means feeling totally overwhelmed.

It’s tempting to suppress any negative emotion when it comes up. For Olympic champion wrestler Jordan Burroughs, that’s exactly the wrong thing to do.

"I think the best athletes in the world are the people who can control their emotions.

"And controlling them doesn't mean just blocking them out completely.

"It means feeling them and acknowledging them, but also not letting them affect your performance.

“One of the best quotes that I've heard recently was ‘Go Scared’.

“(It) means even if you're afraid, even if you're fearful and you don't think you can be done, just do it anyway.

“Every time I step onto the mat, I just go scared. I felt the fear, but I'm not going to let it stop me from being my best.”


The movie about Alex Honnold’s life, Free Solo, won an Academy Award.

The climax of the film is Honnold’s incredible climb up the 900-metre face of El Capitan without any equipment.

It looks risky.

Honnold is one of the world’s best climbers and, so, the risk is different. In his mind, the risk has been mitigated.

“A really a big part of the pleasure is being up on the wall in a position that should be totally insane.

“It should be scary but isn't because of all your work you’ve done to get there.

“You can be in this position and feel totally comfortable. It seems slightly cliché but it’s like making the impossible possible.”



U.S. cross-country skier Kikkan Randall has a tip for reaching your goal: set out a clear road map for success.

Kikkan is a cancer survivor who took years to reach her objective of becoming an Olympic champion.

Negative thoughts nearly broke her several times throughout her career but she just kept on going.

“It may be difficult today. It may be difficult this season, but you're putting in the work, and the next big breakthrough may be just around the corner.”


The moment finally happened for Finnish hurdler Annimari Korte – she had qualified for the Olympic Games.

Before that moment, her life had been a series of doctor’s appointments: from torn quads to a crippling back pain.

She found out she was allergic to most foods, had anxiety attacks, and had given up on her dream to become a professional athlete.

Korte eventually put her sporting life and her athletic dream came true.

She felt hollow. The elation she expected disappeared and she was left feeling uneasy.

“Everyone wants their dreams to come true.

“But when it actually happens, it's like, what now?”

She had to rearrange her mentality. And now she has a new goal.

“I want to believe that I can be there with the best.”


Kelly Slater has been a world champion 11 times.

It’s a lot.

But rather than rest on his laurels, Slater has learned not to tie his self-worth to his sport.

“Look, I've done enough. If I'm not happy with what I've done, I've got a serious mental issue because I've done it all.”

He has a wide set of interests within surfing and some which have nothing to do with the beach at all.

“I don't want my legacy to be depending on my career, to be honest.

“I'd like to be done with it, and I just have life be good - that's the most important thing, I think, in the end.”


Boxing legend Wladimir Klitschko is one of the sport’s biggest names.

The Olympic gold medallist went on to become heavyweight champion of the world. In the end, he spent 4,382 days in a row as the champ.

Before this unparalleled success came after an unconvincing performance against DaVarryl Williamson.

“I was basically completely written off and it was challenging to pick up myself from the dust and of criticism, and there was a lot of criticism.”

Instead of reacting to the criticism negatively, Klitschko used it to become a more proficient boxer.

“I'm so thankful for this criticism because that made me better.”


Someone says something mean online. How do you respond?

Figure skater Adam Rippon has a reputation for owning people online but his advice is engage positively first.

“What I've learned is that if I'm going to respond to this person, I should respond to five of the nice comments.

“And by the time you respond to the fifth nice comment, you have no desire to speak to this one person who has this nasty thing to say to you.”


Olympic champion gymnast Laurie Hernandez’s social media profile grew at an astronomical rate in the run up to Rio 2016.

Hernandez’s recommendation is to just not give it too much attention.

“I take everything with a pinch of salt because people will write things that they would never say to your face. Good and bad, unfortunately.”

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