London 2012 Olympic medallist Sam Oldham has opened up about his battle with depression after announcing he will retire after this year’s Games.
As a teenager Oldham, along with Louis Smith, Max Whitlock, Kristian Thomas and Daniel Purvis, won Great Britain’s first ever gymnastics Olympic team medal when they took bronze eight years ago.
It was a huge achievement but one Oldham, now 27, has revealed left him tinged with regret due to his fall from the high bar.
“It was my best event, the one I was there to compete for,” he said. “I was last to compete on the parallel bars and I got our best score, but we flipped straight to high bars and I had to run to get my hand guards on.
“So I fell. My fingertips caught it but I fell. I finished my routine and finished it well. I got 14, which is still a really good score on the high bar.
“But my life just crashed in an instant. I couldn’t help thinking I’d just cost my country a first Olympic medal in 100 years and we might never get the opportunity again.
“For the two years after that I beat myself up and when I saw the medal I really struggled with it, because all the people around me were on cloud nine and I felt awful, like I didn’t deserve my medal, and I felt a lot of pain about it.”
Those disappointments, plus losing his place in the Team GB squad last year, left him fearing for his mental health and eventually seeking therapy.
Speaking as part of the Sky Sports Scholars initiative, Oldham added: “There were a lot of things that led up to that moment. Sport can be incredibly tough and from a very young age I set the benchmark incredibly high.
“Luckily I had the self-awareness to ask for help. Now I’m in an incredible place. I know now I don’t want to take that risk with my mental health and go down that dark path again.
“Now as I come to the end of my career my biggest target is to have a positive experience this summer.”