René Holten Poulsen: when post-traumatic stress slows down an elite rower in the course of a race

“Throughout a contest, I’d quit or cease rowing as a result of one thing jogged my memory of the Olympic remaining,” says the Danish paddler, who couldn’t get better from his very laborious failure in Rio 2016. Now he needs to qualify for Tokyo and know that he may beat his predominant rival.

René Holten Poulsen is a Danish paddler who gained a silver medal at Beijing 2008, owns three world titles and 6 European titles and desires of taking part in his fourth Olympic Video games in Tokyo subsequent 12 months. Skilled and profitable, as we speak he trains along with his head set on attaining qualification for the Japanese occasion, which escaped him final 12 months when he suffered an episode of post-traumatic stress dysfunction (PTSD) in the course of the World Championship because of the laborious expertise he had lived three years earlier in Rio de Janeiro 2016, when he arrived as a candidate however didn’t meet expectations.

That PTSD response occurred throughout one of many K1 1000 semi-finals of the event that was held in Szeged, Hungary. Poulsen had began properly and was combating for the primary locations, however with 250 meters to go, he stopped. “I simply stopped rowing,” he wrote in an article he wrote for the Athlete 365 web site, a platform that the Worldwide Olympic Committee created to attach elite athletes from all over the world.

“What I discovered final 12 months was that I suffered trauma from the Rio expertise. Since these Video games, generally throughout a race, if I used to be in an identical state of affairs to the ultimate, I’d simply cease. And till I used to be identified. , I had no concept why, “defined the Dane. “Now I am working it out and I really feel nearly one hundred pc. However the harm is completed, and the journey again to the rostrum and at your greatest takes time, to not point out the therapeutic strategy of the thoughts after stress and melancholy. “.

Poulsen determined to share his story as a result of he’s satisfied that he’s not the one athlete who has gone by way of an identical state of affairs. “I believe there’s something to do and that we now have to take a look at this problem far more critically,” he stated.

After changing into two-time world champion in Milan in 2015, the place he gained two golds within the K1 500 – he defended the 2014 Moscow title – and K1 1,000, the Dane was rising as one of many favorites to get on the rostrum within the longest distance on the Video games 2016. In his nation, nobody doubted that he would win a medal, the one unknown was realizing what colour it might be. Many even claimed that it might be a gold.

With that nice stress on his again and an excessive coaching load – he nearly had no relaxation between that double consecration within the World Cup in Italy and the Olympic occasion – he arrived in Rio de Janeiro. Above, on the flight to Brazil he bought sick and ended up competing with out being 100%. The consequence was a efficiency to be forgotten: he was sixth within the remaining, removed from that podium that appeared sure within the earlier one.

“After that double gold within the World Cup, the reality was I didn’t have time to course of what I had achieved. I instantly began coaching fascinated about Rio, with out reordering my objectives, and I believe that was the start of what would finish with that response for PTSD, “he stated. And he recalled: “In Rio I wanted antibiotics, however I did not take them till after the semifinal. Within the remaining, I keep in mind trying in the direction of the aim with 400 meters to go and considering ‘Simply 400 extra meters and it is over, no extra stress’. And that is no option to run an Olympic remaining if you wish to win. It was a horrible expertise. I used to be fully shattered. “

Poulsen didn’t share these emotions with anybody or take time to research what he had skilled in Brazil. He returned to coaching fascinated about the long run, within the 2020 Video games, and bodily he was enhancing increasingly. Nevertheless, internally one thing was improper. “I used to be not pleased, I used to be not unhappy. I used to be numb, paralyzed,” he stated.

“It bought worse and worse till it began to occur to me that in a contest I gave up or stopped rowing as a result of one thing jogged my memory of the Olympic remaining. Some rival put himself in a sure place within the race or felt one thing in his physique that made me keep in mind to Rio and simply stopped or felt the necessity to cease, “he stated.

Through the World Racice 2017 could not sleep for 4 days And he didn’t perceive why. On the 2018 European Championships, he had lagged to this point behind in Remaining B that he felt misplaced and didn’t perceive what was occurring. And within the 2019 World Cup, lastly, his head stated sufficient.

“While you’re a high-performance athlete, should you quit in a contest, you’re feeling regret. However after the World Cup semi-final, I did not really feel it. That is after I knew one thing was improper,” he defined.

How did you discover out what was improper with him? Because of the sports activities director of the Danish nationwide group, who can also be a psychologist and ex-soldier with expertise in Iraq and Afghanistan. “He got here as much as me and instructed me that one thing I had stated after the race – that I may solely take into consideration how a lot it jogged my memory of the Rio remaining – had confirmed his suspicions. That he was certain I suffered from PTSD. It was the one factor. it made sense. And I lastly met my rival, “commented the paddler.

Since then, Poulsen started his restoration. He started to learn books on the topic, to work with a sports activities psychologist who made his nation’s boating federation accessible to him, and he even adopted the behavior of writing a diary, a follow that, he says, helped him so much.

“Journaling is nice since you might be fully trustworthy with all of your emotions. And then you definately shut it up and say ‘That is it. I will not give it some thought till tomorrow ‘. It’s as if you’re releasing all of the unfavourable emotions. Writing and discovering what I felt, why I felt it, the way it had affected me and the way I felt about it, was a course of that I entered and I simply needed to belief that in some unspecified time in the future I used to be going to come back out the opposite facet. And I am undecided if that is the rationale, however I began to really feel higher and higher, “he mirrored.

The Dane admitted that he would not have a protracted option to go but, however that he feels he’s going in the precise course. And with Tokyo 2020 in his sights – he’ll search qualification on the European Championship in Ivrea, Italy, in Could – he stated: “I believe you by no means fully overcome a trauma. However you’ll be able to study from it and easy methods to stay with it. And you’ll. driving higher and higher. On a foul day of coaching, I nonetheless see that Rio 2016 day, I nonetheless really feel it. However at the very least now I do know what it’s and that makes every thing simpler. ”

Invited by the Worldwide Canoeing Federation, Poulsen participated within the podcast in Could “How sports activities stars face the quarantine by Covid-19” and affirmed that the stress that the disaster generated in lots of athletes may have an effect on their performances on the Olympic occasion of the following 12 months.

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