National Alliance on Mental Illness
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A New Gold Standard
Seven Olympic medals couldn’t quiet champion swimmer Amanda Beard’s inner critic. So she set herself a different goal: happy and healthy.
By Linda Childers
At 14, swimmer Amanda Beard became a media darling when she won a gold medal and two silvers at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta. With her mesmerizing blue eyes, contagious smile, and perpetual tan, she seemed the picture of a carefree California girl.
Beard went on to set and break records in the breaststroke, win a world championship, and rack up four more Olympic medals. Her accomplishments are all the more amazing because behind Beard’s cheerful façade was an insecure teen dogged by depression.
No matter how many successes she racked up in the pool, she never felt she deserved the limelight. Lauded for her good looks—she modeled for Sports Illustrated’s swimsuit issue, Playboy, and the British men’s magazine FHM in her 20s—the image she saw in the mirror was flawed and fat, far from pinup material.
“Some days, it was hard to just get out of bed,” Beard admits. “There were all these great things going on in my life, but on the inside, I hated everything about me.”
Beard found solace in swimming—not in her triumphs, but in the rhythm of her strokes and the refuge of the water. Even when she felt overwhelmed, tired and miserable, she could put all that aside in the pool. … [end of excerpt]