The case of three-time Olympic champion in downhill skiing, Matthias Mayer, is still a hot topic. But not only the skiing public is interested. It turns out that it extends far beyond the snow-covered slopes.
Downhill skier Matthias Mayer.
| Photo: ČTK/AP/Giovanni Auletta
Let’s briefly recall those unfortunate moments. At the time of the famous downhill in Kitzbühel, Austria, former skier Matthias Mayer drew not very positive attention to himself with his not very distinguished behavior in one of the local hotels and its surroundings.
As it soon became clear, behind everything there were probably psychological problems that the three-time Olympic champion suffers from.
“Matthias is not doing well and it is unfortunately a fact that he simply has not overcome his health problems. He had another relapse in Kitzbühel,” the Austrian boss revealed on ServusTV alpine skiing Herbert Mandl. “He is currently receiving treatment, he is not feeling well and it will take some time for him to get his act together,” he added.
The scandal of the Olympic champion: He is being treated, the union apologizes for Mayer’s behavior
In addition to three gold medals from the Olympic Games, Mayer was able to shock not only his fans, but also in a negative way. That’s when he ended his career completely unexpectedly at the end of 2022. At the time, no one, not even his closest colleagues in the team, had any idea what was behind the sudden end of skiing.
Matthias Mayer and one of his greatest career achievements:
However, there had been speculation about the thirty-three-year-old Austrian’s mental problems for some time before the local ski association confirmed them.
It boils under the surface, then all it takes is a spark
It’s a big topic with our neighbors. It goes far beyond skiing. “It’s bubbling under the surface. Elite athletes often feel alone in their problems. Then a small spark is all it takes for everything to explode,” reflects Salzburger Nachrichten journalist Richard Oberndorfer, pointing to Mayer’s case in particular.
It draws attention to the pressure that is placed on the athlete from all sides. Public, media, social networks, sponsors…
In 2020, a society was even established in Austria that deals with the issue of the psyche of athletes – the Austrian Society for Sports Psychotherapy and Sports Psychiatry. However, sports psychotherapist Wolfgang Preinsperger from its board of directors believes that there are still few experts in this field. “We simply need more sports psychotherapists,” he claims.
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Oberndorfer recalls the case of the soccer goalkeeper Robert Enke. The thirty-two-year-old goalkeeper had his own personal psychiatrist, but he finally solved his problems with depression in the fall of 2009 in the most extreme and tragic way. By suicide. He jumped under a train near Hanover…
After this accident, according to the journalist, the company is more alert to similar cases, but there are still large reserves. Oberndorfer also points out that elite sports are starting earlier and earlier. Young athletes often leave their homes and families at the age of twelve or thirteen, they live in boarding schools or academies, they are on their own for many things.
“There is still a lot of work to do in this issue,” he concludes.