The Weight of Gold: Michael Phelps’ documentary on athlete mental health

On HBO Max: The documentary produced and narrated by Michael Phelps humanizes high-performance athletes, explaining to us about not only the physical but also the mental wear and tear that comes with being a gold winner at the Olympics.

Now sports fans will be able to see the most decorated athlete of the Olympic Games, Michael Phelps, but in another facet, in a documentary that offers a look at the mental health challenges facing high-performance athletes, especially those who compete for the Olympics.

After Michael Phelps won 28 medals during his Olympic career, the athlete became a global celebrity, and the organization was quick to use his image to promote the Olympics, to the point of making him «a machine producing gold medals «according to the swimmer.

Winter Olympic Games
From left to right, athletes Apollo Ohno, Shaun White, and Sasha Cohen, winners in their respective categories at the Winter Olympics.

«More than 80 percent of athletes suffer from depression after competing in the Olympics,» says the athlete in the documentary of which he is part, along with other athletes such as Shaun White, gold winner in snowboarding, the ice speed skater Apolo Ohno, who won 8 medals throughout his career, Gracie Gold and Sasha Cohen, Olympic bronze and silver ice figure skating winners, and diver David Boudia.

«I don’t think anybody really cared about helping us. No one bothered to come up and ask us if we were okay. As long as we gave up when it came to competing, I think nothing else mattered,» Michael Phelps criticized the leaders and promoters of the sporting event.

Steve Holcomb
Steve Holcomb waving to the public at the Winter Olympics. Photo: Arnd Wiegmann / Reuters

«I can’t see any more suicides.» With that phrase, the remembered swimmer exposes cases such as Steve Holcomb, who committed suicide after struggling for several years with depression. «Depression is like a spiral: you are falling lower and lower,» said the athlete moments before the Olympic champion in bobsleigh killed himself. The documentary was at first to be based on the life of Holcom, an athletic figure who spoke openly about his suicidal thoughts, which ended in his fatal denouement at the Olympic Training Center in New York. He passed away from an overdose of sleeping pills and alcohol.

The documentary has received mixed reviews, but a common conclusion. If this documentary manages to inspire others to talk about their struggles despite its failure to delve into topics like depression and mental health in athletes, the making of the film would have been worthwhile.

The Weight of Gold premiered on July 29, the date the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games were to begin. The documentary does not yet have a release date in Latin America.