Superstar Libby Trickett opens up about retirement and living in 'the real world'.

Libby Trickett.




Another week, another former Australian swimming champion covering the pages of our newspapers and the screens of our TVs with some sort of scandal.

Or at least…. that’s how it’s begun to feel like lately.

This week, Geoff Huegill, 35, was allegedly busted with cocaine – reports are that he was hiding from the police in a public toilet. Last month, it was Grant Hackett, before that is was Ian Thorpe. Before that it was the whole male swim team acting like idiots at the London Olympics in 2012, putting the performance of their colleagues at serious risk.

So what the hell is happening to our swimmers? Was there something fancy put in the chlorine at Sydney Olympic Park? Why are so many of them having such major fall from grace?

Today I spoke to swimming champion Libby Trickett to try and find out why it is that so many of our former swimming champions – and the men in particular – are struggling to achieve success in a post-pool career.

Trickett, 29, has managed to build a successful life out of the pool but has also spoken publicly about struggling with depression following her retirement from professional swimming. Trickett is in a unique position of being able to understand why so many of our past champions seem to be having such difficulty adjusting to ‘regular’ life.

On the latest drama with Geoff Huegill, Trickett said, “I don’t condone his actions but my heart goes out to him and his family.” Trickett does admit her first reaction to the news that Huegill had allegedly been caught with drugs was “honestly…not again.” She seems to be deeply concerned that the reputation of the sport in particular is at a low point.


That isn’t to say Trickett doesn’t understand the difficulties and hardship athletes face when they finish their career. “The fact is that as a professional athlete, swimming is your entire life,” she said. “You live and breathe swimming. Everything you do in your life is to help you improve just that millisecond in the pool… I’ve been retired since July last year and it is still a journey I’m trying to figure out.”

So how can athletes avoid struggling in the way that the likes of Huegill, Thorpe and Hackett are? Is this sort of fall into deep despair somehow inevitable for those who have achieved at the very highest levels of their sport and been lauded as heroes by an entire nation?

Geoff Hugill and Sara Hill

Trickett believes they need to learn how to adjust.

And the key to adjustment? Asking for help.

“The lifestyle of being a high-performing athlete is so unrealistic and really an unreal world. Being the best in the world at age 23, you have this view you can do anything and once you finish competing you have to work out where you fit in and what else what you can do,” Trickett says.

“When they were swimming professionally, they always felt they had to pretend to be tough and bulletproof. Now in the real world they are trying to do the same thing and it’s not working. They feel uncomfortable asking for help.”


But where does the help come from?

Trickett thinks sporting organisations need to step up and play more of a role in helping athletes adjust to life when they’re no longer representing the country.

“I think if there is anything positive to come from this is that sporting organisations need to step up and take more control in helping swimmers with the transition to retirement,” she says.

But is it too late for the great Australian swimmers who have already come through the ranks? To the average sport-loving member of the public, it just feels like so many of them have struggled with life outside the pool.

And somehow… it feels incredibly sad. To see former champions reduced to such a difficult struggle with what most of us find ordinary and normal.

Trickett believes that her friends and former teammates will persevere and learn to adjust to their new lives. She has a faith in them and their mental strength that is truly inspirational.

“What we will see with Huegill is that he will bounce back and overcome this problem,” Trickett says.

“He will overcome and be stronger for it.”

Have you been following the Huegill scandal? Do you think Australian athletes need more support to transition to life after sport? Should it be the Government who provides that support or their sports?


Lauren is a media lover who is currently interning at Mamamia. She loves to keep herself busy, whether it is catching up with friends, trying out the newest restaurant or creating a cooking disaster. If she isn’t replying to your text, it is most likely she is overseas on another adventure.