“The Weight of Gold,” a documentary about Olympians’ mental health challenges narrated by Michael Phelps, debuts July 29 on HBO.
Phelps believes he experienced a state of depression after each of his five Olympics. He first shared his mental-health struggles in 2015, saying he spent days curled in a fetal position, “not wanting to be alive anymore,” following his September 2014 DUI arrest, according to a Sports Illustrated cover story.
Phelps became a mental-health advocate since his 2016 retirement. He partnered with Talkspace and appeared in a film, “Angst,” to share his story of being bullied and depressed, leading to severe anxiety.
“For a long time, I only saw myself as a swimmer, not a person,” Phelps, an executive producer for “The Weight of Gold” alongside director Brett Rapkin, said in an HBO press release. “When I walked off the podium in Rio, I knew many of my teammates and competitors were not aware of, or prepared for – the post-Olympic transition. In sharing our stories, it is my hope that we can encourage others to open up, let them know they are not alone and that it’s OK to not be OK. For me, the opportunity to help break the stigma surrounding mental health and potentially save a life is way more meaningful than any Olympic medal.”
“The Weight of Gold” also features Olympic medalists bobsledder Steven Holcomb and aerials skier Jeret “Speedy” Peterson, who both battled depression during their careers. Holcomb died in his sleep in May 2017 at age 37. Peterson committed suicide in July 2011 at age 29.
Holcomb was the genesis for the documentary. Rapkin interviewed the bobsledder in 2017 for a film on Holcomb’s return from a degenerative eye condition and a 2007 suicide attempt to win an Olympic title in 2010. Twelve days after the interview, Holcomb was found dead.
Rapkin decided to expand his project to cover U.S. Olympians across several sports, telling stories of mental health battles. Other Olympians in the film include Shaun White, Gracie Gold, Sasha Cohen, Bode Miller, David Boudia, Lolo Jones, Jeremy Bloom and Katie Uhlaender.
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