Gabriel Medina, surfing world champion, sets return from mental break

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Brazilian Gabriel Medina, a three-time and reigning world surfing champion, will reportedly return from a mental health break for the second half of the World Surf League season next month.

“Last year, there were heats where I was crying going to the water,” Medina said in a video interview with Brazil’s Globo, according to an Olympics.com translation. “This time [away] was good for me. It’s not a secret. It’s even interesting to talk about mental health. I had depression. I started treating myself with a psychologist. I never imagined being in this situation. It’s scary. Things stop making sense for you.”

Medina, 28, announced in January that he withdrew from the start of the WSL season indefinitely, saying he was “not in a place where I believe I can perform against the world’s best” with a need to focus on his well-being.

Days after Medina’s announcement, Brazilian media reported that he and his wife ended their marriage.

“I’m better, happy to be finding myself again,” Medina told Globo in the recent interview, according to the Olympics.com translation. “I learned a lot during this time.”

Medina, who has 10 million Instagram followers and was the first surfer to land a back flip in a contest, entered the Tokyo Games ranked No. 1 in the world and finished fourth.

He dropped his semifinal to Japan’s Kanoa Igarashi by .24 of a point and the bronze-medal heat to Australian Owen Wright by two tenths of a point. They were the two closest heats of any men’s or women’s elimination round matchup at surfing’s Olympic debut.

Fellow Brazilian Italo Ferreira took gold.

Medina’s first event of this season is expected to be in Indonesia in five weeks.

Surfing remains on the Olympic program for the 2024 Paris Games, with competition set to be in Tahiti. Qualifying procedures have not been published yet. For the Tokyo Games, the majority of surfers qualified via WSL season standings the year before the Olympics.

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