Player's Own Voice

Player's Own Voice podcast: External success, internal struggle with Brittany MacLean

The Player's Own Voice podcast welcomes Brittany MacLean, one of Canada's greatest swimmers, who struggled throughout her career with a depression that competition often magnified.

Canadian swimming star confronts the often unhealthy mindset of intense competition

Swimmer Brittany MacLean, seen above at the Rio Olympics, joins the latest edition of CBC Sports' Player's Own Voice podcast. (Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press)

When an athlete stands on the Olympic podium, a spectrum of emotions come into play — not all of them joyful. 

For Brittany MacLean, Canadian national women's record holder in the 400-, 800-, and 1,500-metre freestyle swim, a bronze medal in Rio was a serious eye opener. Objectively, she knew it was a huge achievement. But inside? The normally exuberant young woman felt mostly disappointed and depressed about the experience.

MacLean took that insight, and from it built a deep understanding of problems that many athletes face. When competitors pour all their energy into one goal, it can be dangerous. Self-worth gets caught up in results that are beyond an athlete's control. And even if everything goes perfectly, careers eventually end. How much self-esteem can athletes retain once they stop doing the sport that defined them?

MacLean has come to grips with her own depression, and continues to grow from it to this day. As she shares with Player's Own Voice podcast host and fellow Olympian Anastasia Bucsis, just because this is a time in history when extraordinary numbers of people are suffering mental health setbacks, that does not mean our own problems are any less deserving of respect and attention.

Like the CBC Sports' Player's Own Voice essay series, the POV podcast lets athletes speak to Canadians about issues from a personal perspective. To listen to all three seasons, subscribe for free on iTunes, Google Podcasts, Stitcher, Tune In or wherever you get your other podcasts.

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