athlete voices // past + present

My name is Samantha Arsenault Livingstone. I am an Olympic gold medalist (USA, Swimming 2000), speaker and high-performance consultant. I'm on a mission to transform the culture in the athletic arena to one where ALL athletes feel safe, supported and seen.

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My name is Samantha Arsenault Livingstone. I am an Olympic gold medalist (USA, Swimming 2000), speaker and high-performance consultant. I'm on a mission to transform the culture in the athletic arena to one where ALL athletes feel safe, supported and seen.

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When I stood atop the Olympic podium at the age of 18, the extreme pride and and joy I felt after achieving a childhood dream was drowned out by the booming voice of an inner critic: I wasn’t fit enough - fast enough - strong enough to be an Olympian, despite the gold medal draped around my neck.

Within months of that moment on the podium, I was out of the water standing in the rubble of my life. Childhood dream realized. Feeling like a fraud.

Wondering who I was in the world – who I should be.

As I sifted through the debris, I learned how to separate productivity and achievement from self-worth, and healed my relationship with food and my body. A decade later, the rules of my world came crashing down once again as I witnessed my then 12-month-old daughter suffer life-threatening complications after open-heart surgery.

Rising this time meant leaving behind all of perfection – and the idea that if we just try hard enough, we can control all the things, be protected from pain and find inner peace and happiness.

The pain of PTSD has been the most brutal gift - and the most beautiful - because it's allowed me to heal wounds I didn't realize still needed healing.

After 16 years, I finally unboxed all of my Olympic gear - and with it the journals of my teenage self. Opening those pages brought light to some of the darkest parts of my story.

I had two journals. One that captured the thoughts and beliefs of my truest self. And another, completely separate spiral bound journal that captured the toxic underworld of my mind.

I wept.

For my 18 year old self. Who just two days before swimming in the biggest meet of her life on the world’s biggest stage was spinning sideways - RAILING against herself - believing she “MUST LOSE 5 POUNDS” in two days.

I wept.

As a mother of four beautiful girls. Watching them dig through these bins, joyfully putting on all mama’s medals + clothes. Finding all sorts of cool treasures inside those boxes.

I wept for all our athletes - young + elite - past + present - who’ve been subject to shame.

I could no longer run from the truth that the club coaches who were the first to believe in me, were the very same people who caused enormous emotional pain.

Pain that I carried with me long past my days in the pool.

Two years later, I stood on stage at TEDxNorthAdams and shared all the parts of my story, not just the parts I thought people wanted to hear.

And again, at USA Swimming’s Convention. In front of a room filled with stakeholders who were part of the village that both nurtured my growth and contributed to my battle with mental illness.

Holding my journals. Sharing those pages. Shining a light on the silent suffering.

 
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Owning my story was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. And, it was one of the most liberating.

Because, for the first time in my life I didn't feel like a fraud.

 
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It's time to pay forward all I've learned about achievement, emotional agility, rising from failure and finding happiness. Because, unfortunately, I’ve come to know that my story is far from unique.

Today, I help athletes, coaches and leaders to cultivate and further develop the fundamental skills needed to become more mindful, courageous, resilient leaders so they can achieve AND feel fulfilled along the way.

Because, both are possible.

And it’s going to require us

we are stronger together

As parents / educators / coaches, we can't control all things. We CAN empower + equip our kids with the skills they need to become brave, mindful, resilient leaders.

We can teach courage and compassion. 

We can strengthen resilience. 

We can do hard things. And so can they.

~

For inquiries + booking, contact me here