Figure Skater Gabriela Papadakis Reveals How She Survived an Abortion and Depression While Preparing for the Olympics

French Olympic champion in ice dancing Gabriela Papadakis admitted that she had an abortion during the 2021 World Championships. This act caused the skater a powerful psychological trauma, which prevented her from training and gave rise to misunderstanding on the part of her partner Guillaume Sizeron and coaches. The preparation of the legendary duet for the Beijing Olympics became seriously complicated, but the figure skater coped with mental problems and did not stop on her way to the highest sports award.

For Olympic gold, she paid a higher price than ever and for a long time blamed herself for the “unacceptable” pregnancy for an athlete. And the coaches and partner did not extend a hand of support to her, although she badly needed it.

Is Gabriela happy now that she has Olympic gold? No one but her will answer. However, she is now breathing freely. Seems like the first time in years.

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“Sports victories are not only medals, but also wounds”

Gabriela Papadakis and Guillaume Sizeron have been recognized leaders in ice dancing since 2015. They could have become Olympic champions at the Pyeongchang Games, but the insulting incident with Gabriela’s costume prevented this from happening. During a short dance, her dress unexpectedly unbuttoned and exposed her breasts. There was no opportunity to fix something in the middle of the rental. The couple continued the most difficult program, despite the incident, but they failed to give their best. Psychological discomfort led to an uncharacteristic blot on the twizzles and lower scores than the main rivals – the Canadian duo Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir. Even the victory in the free dance did not help Papadakis and Sizeron overtake them in the overall standings. The French returned from Pyeongchang with silver and a thirst for revenge.

At the Beijing Olympics, Papadakis and Sizeron, as expected, won the well-deserved gold. Unlike the Games in Pyeongchang, there were no troubles with the girl’s costume on the ice of the Celestial Empire, and the brilliant performances of the new main competitors – Russian dancers Victoria Sinitsina and Nikita Katsalapov – were not enough to snatch victory from the brilliant French.

Gabriela Papadakis and Guillaume Sizeron

Photo: Xavier Laine/Getty Images

Goal achieved: Papadakis and Sizeron are Olympic champions. But what is the price of this championship? For every athlete, victories involve a variety of sacrifices, injuries, and overcomings. The price of success is always very high. However, what Gabriela went through goes beyond the standard tests. Her personal drama almost led to a premature end to her career, but she kept a secret and did not talk about mental anguish.

Only in a documentary for French television Le Couple de Feu (“Fiery Couple”) did the girl finally admit that she had experienced an abortion and fell into depression after it. She had to pull herself out of this state on her own.

“Sports victories are not only medals, but also wounds. Nothing to do, it’s part of the game,” said Papadakis in the film Le Couple de Feu.

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“After that, everything went downhill.”

The pre-Olympic season 2020/2021 Papadakis and Sizeron completely missed. They seemed to fear for their health due to the pandemic and were hard at work preparing for the Beijing Games. Partly it was. But only in part. In September, Gabriela was overcome with depression, and she did not understand how to train in such a state. That is why the couple did not go to the World Championships in Stockholm: they returned to training in December and approached their usual loads very carefully. We rode first for half an hour a day, then an hour, an hour and a half. Not always everything worked out, which was complicated by the desire in the air to give up the work of a lifetime. It was pointless to go to the World Cup in such discord.

“In mid-September, there was a breakdown, after which I could no longer skate. This is depression. The thought of going back to training seemed impossible to me. We thought – is the game worth the candle? Should I go to the World Cup? We knew intellectually that it was not. It didn’t make much sense. We were just unable to. Honestly, we didn’t go because we weren’t able to. This is a forced decision,” said Papadakis in the film Le Couple de Feu.

Gabriela Papadakis and Guillaume Sizeron

Gabriela Papadakis and Guillaume Sizeron

Photo: Jean Catuffe/Getty Images

And during the World Cup, Gabriela faced the most difficult test: having learned that she was pregnant, she decided to have an abortion. The coaches and partner did not force her, but did not show much sympathy either. It sounds terrible, but you can understand them: Gabriela’s pregnancy is not their area of ​​​​responsibility. It is necessary to seek support in such a personal matter not from colleagues, but from relatives. Ideally, the father of the child. However, the skater did not mention that she was considering giving birth and becoming a mother. She went to Olympic gold and did not want to give up her dream.

But abortion, no matter how conscious it may be, naturally causes mental trauma. Gabriela needed time to recover, but she needed to continue to train. It is for her that the world has changed dramatically, but for Guillaume and the coaches everything remains the same.

Gabriela Papadakis and Guillaume Sizeron

Gabriela Papadakis and Guillaume Sizeron

Photo: Joosep Martinson/Getty Images

“It all started a year ago. I really don’t understand why… It coincided with the moment when I had an abortion during the World Cup. We can say that after that everything went downhill. I announced that I had an abortion. They visited me, everything seemed to be fine. Upon returning to the rink, they told me: it’s not worth talking about it. There was something like a deep alienation.

I think that’s when the anger you feel when you’re tired of playing a part came over me. When you’re sick of yourself. When you are afraid of judgmental looks and are already tired of hiding. When I got pregnant, I blamed myself. Most of all, I blamed myself for this. I’m an athlete, so I have no right to get pregnant. Now this seems ridiculous to me. But the fact remains – that’s what I thought, ”Papadakis admitted in the film Le Couple de Feu.

Sinitsina and Katsalapov - space. Only brilliant French could stop our couple
Sinitsina and Katsalapov – space. Only brilliant French could stop our couple

“It’s like saying to a suicidal person: “Come on, take care of yourself!”

In fact, the main drama of Gabriela is not in the very fact of the abortion, but in the absence of full-fledged psychological assistance after that. And this was not supposed to be done by coaches or a partner, but by qualified specialists. It is strange that this did not happen, because Guillaume mentioned in the film that a “mental health coach” works with the couple.

Of course, it is a pity that the team did not pay due attention to the problems of the skater, and she was so afraid of disappointing everyone that she tried to hide another depression. I had to “recover” on my own, which is also very painful and requires enormous psychological effort. In fact, Gabriela sacrificed not only a child for the sake of Olympic gold, but also mental health.

Gabriela Papadakis and Guillaume Sizeron

Gabriela Papadakis and Guillaume Sizeron

Photo: Joosep Martinson/Getty Images

“In fact, issues related to mental health are still ignored in the sports environment. It looks something out of place, unsightly, incomprehensible. It’s one thing when they say to you: “There’s a mess. We will heal.” Another is when you feel bad, and in response: “We give you a little time, come on, take care of yourself.” It’s like saying to a suicidal person: “Come on, take care of yourself!” Papadakis explained in the film Le Couple de Feu.

After their fifth World Championship victory, Papadakis and Sizeron announced a one-year suspension of their careers. To return or not, they have not yet decided. But their gold medals are definitely enough to be proud of the path they have traveled in big-time sports and continue to sacrifice nothing for new awards.

Especially Gabriele. She suffered everything she could, and deserved spiritual harmony. In sports, without sports, it doesn’t matter. It is important to breathe freely.

“It’s done! And a mountain from the shoulders. I can finally breathe,” Papadakis said of winning the Olympics in Le Couple de Feu.

The article is in Russian

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