Beijing 2022: Antoine Gélinas-Beaulieu stronger than the depression



He believed that his Olympic dream would once again slip through his fingers. Like four years ago, when he missed qualifying for the Olympics in Korea by three hundredths. This time, on October 11, on the ice in Calgary, Antoine Gélinas-Beaulieu collapsed, mown down by a competitor, in the semifinals of the mass start, a spectacular race that sees a maximum of 24 skaters compete over 16 laps of 400 meters.

The Canadian World Cup stage qualifies for the Beijing Winter Games in February. “I thought my chances of qualifying had fallen into the water”, confides the Canadian skater, finally drafted in extremis by the judges, before validating his ticket for China in the final.

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At 29, Antoine Gélinas-Beaulieu will therefore participate in his first Games. ” My biggest dream, admits the skater, his voice full of excitement. When I was 9, I watched Canadian skaters at the Salt Lake City Games.I told myself that I would do anything to be there one day. ” A late participation, almost an anomaly for the man who was considered one of the greatest hopes of world speed skating. “In junior, I had a meteoric career, says the Quebecer. I was vice-world champion and I was convinced that the first place was for me. “

Retirement at 19

The trail to the summits was all laid out, but Antoine Gélinas-Beaulieu derailed. Blame it on overtraining and a toxic work environment. His trainer accuses him of ” to pretend “ when he is seized with asthma attacks, which will quickly turn into anxiety attacks. At 18, the kid fell into depression. “I felt extremely tired. I remained bedridden, unable to get out. “ When he finds the energy to go on the ice, he even sometimes “Fall unconscious”.

In 2012, plagued by an evil on which he can not put words, the young man retired at 19 years old. Antoine Gélinas-Beaulieu begins film studies, works as a waiter in bars, embarks on a great journey. India, Nepal, China: more than six months traveling alone which will do him the greatest good: “It allowed me to take another look at myself. I finally became aware of my psychological fragility. “

“I had the impression that a loop was not closed”

On his return, Antoine Gélinas-Beaulieu is better. But not to the point of wanting to put the skates back on: “I did not expect to return to high level sport one day. I thought I was doing something completely different with my life. “ Three years go by then, in 2015, the young man begins to feel a void. “I was young, I worked as a bartender and I felt that I had no more goals. I had the impression that a circle had not come full circle ”, remembers the skater.

That year, he met Steve Robillard, his current coach, in a bar in Montreal. The latter convinces him to return to the ice. The former junior champion resumes the thread of his career with one goal: to participate in the Olympics. He moved to Quebec to resume training. He is welcomed there with open arms. “With Steve, I rediscovered the creativity and the freedom that made me love this sport so much when I was young”, rejoices the athlete.

Back to the top

The return to the highest level remains difficult. “Sometimes, in certain rinks, symptoms of my depression reappeared”, notes Antoine Gélinas-Beaulieu. This time, the speed skater talks about it to those around him. He gets help from professionals to treat what he calls his “Mental injuries”. He also applies certain breathing techniques from yoga, a discipline discovered during his trip, to contain his anxiety attacks as the races approach.

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Thanks to an effective psychological follow-up and a training program based on the well-being of the athlete, Antoine Gélinas-Beaulieu returns to the heights of world speed skating. Proud to have conquered his demons, the skater shows ambition but does not want to put pressure on himself: “I have the potential to bring home a medal but I’m going to Beijing with a light mind. My dream was to qualify for the Olympics and it has already come true. “

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Breaking the taboo of depression

Like the queen of gymnastics Simone Biles and the icon of women’s tennis Naomi Osaka, athletes have recently dared to break the taboo of depression in high performance sport. “In the competitive world, a psychological problem is a weakness, and some can use it against you. I did not dare to ask for help and I ended up isolating myself ”, regrets Antoine Gélinas-Beaulieu. Today well in his skates, the Canadian wishes to highlight this phenomenon: “I receive messages from athletes who have identified with my story and who thank me for talking about it. It touches me. “

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