Saturday, August 18, 2012


The Star 10 August 2012
It struck me while reading the article "In a limbo" how much retirees and retired Olympians have in common.

For workers, it is mandatory for them to quit their jobs when they reach retirement age. For sportsmen and sportswomen, that age comes much earlier. At only 27, Michael Phelps, with his record haul of 22 Olympic medals, is ready to make the switch from the pool to the golf course.

Getting through the initial post-retirement stage is a huge challenge for many of these great athletes. Having spent years on intensive training as much as up to eight hours a day, they are suddenly left with time on their hands. They are no different from the baby boomers who, after having spent a lifetime working nine to five, now face long days with nothing purposeful to occupy them.

This is a critical stage. If they can make a smooth transition post-retirement, they can look forward to many more years of a rewarding new career, for example, in coaching or consulting, that allows them to draw on their vast skills and experience.

If not, they may lapse into depression. They think they are good for nothing, and a burden to their family and society. Eventually mental illness creeps in. Or they may spiral down into alcoholism like George Best, or substance abuse like Maradona. For some, suicide seems to be the only solution.

Fortunately, such tragic fates of former sports heroes are few and far in between. The majority have succeeded in making the switch and adjusting to the changes in their lives.

Here are some former Olympians we all remember so well. We can draw inspiration from how they have handled their post-retirement phase. (All photos from SavvySugar. Visit the website to view more photos.)

Carl Lewis, 51, won 10 Olympic medals, including 9 golds. He is now a track coach and a UN Goodwill Ambassador. He was recently featured in a Panasonic TV commercial on Astro.
Mohamad Ali, 70, won the light heavyweight gold in the 1960 Olympics. He is a philanthropist and was recently featured in a Louis Vuitton ad with his son.
Nadia Comaneci, 50, was the first to score a perfect 10 in a gymnastics event in the 1976 Olympics. She now runs a gym with her husband.
Bruce Jenner, 62, won the decathlon in the 1976 Olympics. He is a successful entrepreneur, TV personality, motivation speaker and actor. He appears in 'Keeping up with the Kadashians' currently being screened on Astro Channel 712.

These former Olympians show us that there is life after retirement. It all boils down to our attitude and whether we want to take control of our lives, or allow ourselves to slide into self-pity and depression.

The world does not owe us a living. Don't even expect the government to take care of us. Or assume our adult children will always be there for us.

Take responsibility for our lives.

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