Welsh sport stars back campaign to help athletes thrive

TOP Welsh sport stars are backing a campaign to promote the importance of good athlete mental health.

Olympians Jazz Carlin, Vicky Thornley, Menna Fitzpatrick and Jamie Baulch are among the 'athlete peers' supporting the Sport Wales led #ThrivingAthlete launched today (Monday 20 May). 

Following on from Mental Health Awareness Week, the long-term campaign aims to encourage athletes and coaches in Wales to consider mental, as well as physical, health.

Owen Lewis, Head of Elite Sport and Partnerships at Sport Wales explained: "We believe in taking a long-term and holistic approach to developing athletes, including services such as performance lifestyle.  Think person first, then athlete, then champion. Although it may seem counterintuitive, the most successful athletes, teams and coaches don't put the focus on winning but on creating environments where people can thrive.

"Promotion of positive mental health and wellbeing in these environments plays a huge part in this approach to developing successful athletes.

"The #ThrivingAthlete message aims to highlight this and the many opportunities to safeguard the mental health of high-performing athletes in Wales."

Topics up for discussion will include preparing for life after sport, dealing with the pressures of elite sport and getting a good life-sport balance.

Jazz - b

Double Olympic medallist Jazz Carlin, who recently retired from swimming, said: "Sport has played an important role in my life and I always followed the saying that 'a happy swimmer, is a fast swimmer.' Stepping away from swimming was always going to be difficult and leave me feeling a bit lost. The key is to find new passions that make me happy while still having amazing memories to look back on." 

Jamie b

Former sprint champion Jamie Baulch agreed: "I was fortunate to get to the level that I did as a runner but retirement at 33 was daunting. I hadn't been to uni - athletics was the be all and end all for me, so you think 'what am I going to do with the rest of my life now?'  People knew me as 'Jamie Baulch the runner' but I always said being a runner was what I did, not who I was. I knew very early on in my career that it was important to have more than that."

The #ThrivingAthlete campaign will share the experiences of a number of athletes to encourage the world of high-performance sport in Wales to get involved in conversations about athlete wellbeing and how the nation's athletes can truly thrive.

Menna - b

Winter Paralympian Menna Fitzpatrick said: "The #ThrivingAthlete campaign is important because sport is so much more than just being in peak physical condition - it's about enjoying what you do and getting that balance right. In the sport I do, I am fortunate to work so closely with Jen. As my guide, I place my trust in her and that means we have a strong bond. We have support and someone to lean on through some of the tougher times such as dealing with injury, as well as a friend to celebrate the successes - and this really helps my wellbeing!"

Vicky Thornley

Olympic rower Vicky Thornley added: "As an athlete, mental and physical health are paramount and of equal importance. I have been through many ups and downs in rowing, but the more experience I have gained, the more I have realised that aspiring for balance between my sport and life is so important. Of course, winning medals is what I do this for, but I really try to enjoy the process and journey. Mental health is such an important subject and I am really happy to support the #ThrivingAthlete campaign."

To get involved with the conversation and share your experiences and voice, use #ThrivingAthlete or #AthletwrCyflawn online or follow the Sport Wales social media channels (Twitter, Facebook and Instagram @ SportWales) from Monday 20th May onwards.