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Olympic gold medalists Meryl Davis, Allison Schmitt discuss what athletes face after Olympics

Olympic champions talk about highs and lows of competing

DETROIT – Olympic gold medalists Meryl Davis and Allison Schmitt sat down and had a candid conversation about what athletes can face after the Olympics.

Both Metro Detroit women are elite athletes who have achieved great success in their careers.

Schmitt, a freestyle swimmer, had much success competing in the 2008, 2012 and 2016 Summer Olympics. She won four gold medals, two silver and two bronze. She speaks candidly about her struggle with depression after the 2012 Summer Olympics in London, England, and feels it is her purpose now to spread the message: It's OK to not be OK.

She is currently getting her masters in social work in Arizona to become a counselor and continue helping others.

Davis also has had a very successful career and competed in the 2010 and 2014 Winter Olympics with her ice dance partner, Charlie White. She won gold, silver and bronze medals. They made history becoming the first American ice dance team to ever win a gold medal at the Olympics.

Davis, who is working with Local 4 during the Olympics, and Schmitt sat down for Local 4 and spoke about the highs and lows of competing.

Davis said it is rarely talked about but she has known many athletes who have struggled with post-Olympic blues. She said after the Winter Olympics in 2014 she struggled with finding a purpose. 

"I had this idea of after the Olympics I would just go lay on a beach somewhere because we just (had) been working for 20 years toward this goal and I just needed a break, and I found really quickly that I lacked this sense of purpose," Davis said. "I'd wake up, sleeping in, which we think, amazing, everyone wants to sleep in, and I would just like unexpectedly cry because there was just no reason for me to get out of bed, there was nothing waiting for me that I had to do and it took me by surprise."

Schmitt loves speaking about mental health and shares her story to help and inspire others. She wants people to know it's important to talk about how they're feeling and get help. 

"To let people know that it's OK to be sad, upset or angry, that's all normal. What it's not OK to be is isolated and internalize those feelings. I think it's important to talk to someone, whether it's a professional, whether it's a close friend, close family member or teacher, teammate, anyone out there, I really encourage them to speak out and get help," Schmitt said. "I hope that someone watching this realizes that a bad day doesn't mean you have a bad life, a bad week doesn't mean you have a bad life. You can get out of it and know that even us who are seen as, portrayed as smiling on TV looking like we have all the glory, all the fame on TV doesn't necessarily mean that we don't have battles of our own, that we don't have bad days of our own."

Davis said many are empowered by their experience in sports, but if they only talk about the good side of things, they are not doing justice to future generations to fully understand how to overcome and push through the challenges. She said that by sharing their own big picture they can create a better appreciation and understanding for younger generations, especially female athletes.

 Meryl: "I think for me personally to have success then work towards more success and then work towards more success and then work towards more success and realize maybe previously I thought that success was going to bring me all the happiness I ever wanted and it was going to fix all my problems in life and then you get there and you sort of think, 'OK, that's awesome but nothing is really different.' Is that something that has been part of your experience as well?"

Allison: "For sure and I think you definitely explain that correctly. It's like stairs and every stair we keep going up and up and when we get to the top of the stairs, yes that is the Olympics and that is the gold medal but what is shown on TV is the happiness, the happy moments, the smiles, the happy tears, the winning. What's not ever shown is the hard work it took to get there or the losing or the not making finals or the tears of sadness. I think that's never shown on TV so what everyone back home or everyone around the world is watching is the happiness and that's awesome, I want to be there, that's really cool."

Both Davis and Schmitt are sharing their stories about the highs and lows of their experiences to educate younger generations.

"When we're honest about what we're going through in our personal careers and experiences I think it's so much more impactful because it's something that everyone goes through," Davis said. "It's cool to know you can positively impact not just young swimmers and young figure skaters but hopefully impact positively young people in every facet."


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