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Australian Olympic swimmer Ian Thorpe will spearhead an initiative for the Australian Institute of Sport (AIS) to support athletes’ mental health.
The five-time Olympic gold medalist, who became the youngest male to represent Australia at age 14, is ideally placed to support the AIS as he has been very vocal about his battle with mental health problems like depression. Because of his experiences, Thorpe is dedicated to helping other athletes who are undergoing mental health crises.
To express his support, Thorpe agreed to become the first member of the newly established AIS Athlete Wellbeing and Engagement committee.
The new committee, which involves other mental health experts, will specifically focus on certain areas concerning the well-being of athletes. Among these areas are professional development, participation in community initiatives, and skills that will help athletes cope with a high-pressure environment. The committee also plans to bring together practitioners and different athletes across the country to develop a national action plan for athlete welfare.
Through the initiatives of the committee, Thorpe hopes to bring about positive change in the athletes’ mental health and performance.
Thorpe expressed his call for change in his speech at the AIS summit on athlete well-being last June. One of his proposals to boost athletes’ mental health is to urge sports organizations to stop setting medal targets. According to Thorpe, setting gold medals as the primary goal for athletes will only be stressful for them. Instead of motivating them to do well, having medal targets will only negatively affect their performance.