Rio 2016 Olympic gold medallist Constantine Louloudis believes that coaches must do more to help athletes prepare for life after sport, echoing comments made this week by legendary swimmer Michael Phelps, who demanded more help for Olympians in retirement.
Louloudis, a former World and European champion, retired from rowing at the age of 25 and now works in central London, but knows he is an exception as many elite sportsmen are denied the chance to think beyond their training.
“[Coaches] don’t exactly encourage people to go and broaden their horizons” he told Jericho.
“There are systems in place to bring these opportunities to the rowers, but the coaches don’t give the athletes time to take those opportunities.”
“The directors of these sports don’t really have an interest [in an athlete’s life after sport], they just want control.”
Many athletes have struggled with the transition after retiring from the highest level as they find themselves restlessly navigating a life without the intensive routines required by their sport. In a BBC survey in February, more than half of the former professional sportspeople asked had concerns about their mental health and emotional well-being.
“I can certainly think of people who have gone out the other end and realised it was all they’ve known. That psychological change from being a world-beater to being at the bottom of the pile can be really difficult.”
Louloudis studied Classics at Trinity College, Oxford while rowing
Though he admits that rowing “reluctantly accepted I was doing my degree”, Louloudis helped negotiate a schedule that allowed him to keep one eye on the future, studying for a degree at the University of Oxford while taking a year out in 2015 to train for the Olympics.
After retiring, he began a six-month internship at Goldman Sachs and now works as Head of Partnerships at Letsdothis.com, a website that helps people find their next run, swim or cycle.
“A lot of elite sportsmen don’t like the idea of being defined by their sport.” He said. “I loved rowing, but I didn’t really like the idea of being a rower.”
‘Last of the posh boys’
Many current rowers defy the age-old stereotype that they all come fresh from private schools or the Boat Race, and indeed Louloudis was the only rower in his boat in Rio studying simultaneously for a degree.
Two years ago, the BBC published an article calling him “the last of the posh boys”, and while keen to point out he was annoyed by that headline, he adds: “In fairness it was kind of true, when I look around at the people I rowed with… it was guys who came up through local clubs, or through talent ID schemes.”
However, it is these athletes, where education has not been such a massive part of their life as it has with Louloudis, who may be most vulnerable to being at a loss when they reach the finish line.
Constantine Louloudis was speaking to Interviews Editor Frederick Clayton for Jericho.