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Canada’s Stephanie Labbe now feels pride in Olympic gold after mental health struggles

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Stephanie Labbe says a painful injury in Canada’s first match at Tokyo 2020 led to panic attacks

Canada goalkeeper Stephanie Labbe says she can now feel pride in her Olympic gold medal after struggling with her mental health following Tokyo 2020.

Labbe, 34, said she spent much of the 48 hours following the penalty shootout win over Sweden lying in a dark room.

The Paris St-Germain player, who won Olympic bronze in 2016, suffered from panic attacks during the tournament.

Labbe said: “When we won gold I was expecting overwhelming relief, but it just didn’t come.”

An injury sustained in Canada’s opening match in Tokyo triggered “an underlying vulnerability” in her mental state.

“My adrenaline was so heightened and my neuromuscular system was so finely tuned that I struggled to come down between games, which resulted in high levels of anxiety and multiple panic attacks,” Labbe told the players union Fifpro.

“Looking back, I realise that it was a build-up of everything that I had experienced over the last year – the pandemic, the change of coaching staff, the lack of clarity over my position in the team.

“Getting to the Olympics wasn’t just a magical cure for all of this.”

Labbe stepped away from the pressures of international football in 2012 – a decision which brought huge relief.

But winning bronze at Rio 2016 and then gold in Tokyo initially had a detrimental effect on her mental wellbeing.

“When it actually came to everyone clamouring to see the medal and talking about the experience, I began to feel empty inside,” she said on her 2016 experience.

“I started to feel that this piece of metal was worth more than I was as a person, and I think this began a spiral for me.”

On Tokyo, Labbe – who has played 84 times for her country – added: “It’s only now, after a proper break and nearly a month after the event, that I can pick up the medal and feel connected to it as a source of pride.”

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