Struggled with retirement from sport? You’re not alone

I’m not sure I ever could have quit gymnastics, a sport in which I reached the national zone squad. When I see 37-year-old Oksana Chusovitina making the vault final at her sixth Olympic Games in London or 31-year-old British gymnast Lisa Mason returning to gymnastics thirteen years after her last competition, I feel that could have been me – except for one thing. Injury.

A spinal fusion operation stopped me in my tracks at 17, knitting together the stress fracture that was causing more and more pain despite continuing to train on it. I just learned different moves that didn’t hurt so much.

So the decision to “retire” was made for me by my body, but whether it’s your own decision or not, retirement from the sport in which you’ve been cocooned from real life and now been spat out into the real world a little less wiser than most, can be a tricky business.

Which is why I’ve become involved in The Phoenix Project, a study set up by elite performance coach Rick Cotgreave. A former GB lacrosse player, Rick has also studied yoga and meditation over 20 years giving him a unique holistic approach to better understand athlete experiences of retirement from sport. With this information he anticipates solutions can be found to ease the transition from elite athlete to the real world.

Having finally retired from gymnastics after London 2012, Oksana puts the uncertainty of her life ahead simply. “I’ve got to stop now. I’ve got to try out this normal life first, then I can tell you how I like it.”

Click here to complete the 10-minute survey.


  1. […] Following on from Jo Mersh’s blog post about struggling with retirement from athletics last week, I bring news of a survey specifically targeting retired athletes from all sports, aiming to understand more about the impact of retirement. If you’re a retired athlete, you can find the survey here. There’s a little background here. […]

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