What happens when your figure skating career ends?

In Stanford magazine, writer EMILY HITE shares the story of Stanford graduate and former Olympic figure skater RACHAEL FLATT, who works in the lab of professor emeritus of psychiatry and behavioral sciences C. BARR TAYLOR as she applies to doctoral programs in psychology.

Reliable Rachael
Rachael Flatt (Photo: Courtesy Leah Adams)

Flatt, who competed in the 2010 Vancouver Olympics and is now retired from the sport, hopes to continue to implement digital mental-health tools in clinics and tailor those tools for specific populations, particularly athletes. She believes such tools could help athletes struggling with the highs and lows of competition, injuries and media scrutiny in the international spotlight, as well as the often rocky transition to a new reality in retirement.

In the magazine story, Hite describes how Flatt reacted when she completed her final professional competition at the 2014 U.S. Figure Skating Championships. The seat-back television on the plane she took home flashed a highlight reel of her Vancouver performance.

“I’m not a big crier,” says “Reliable Rachael,” the nickname Flatt, ’15, had earned for her consistency on ice. “But it was so overwhelming.”

When her plane landed, the then-junior headed straight to her dorm. Flatt’s roommate and Stanford basketball player, JASMINE CAMP, had just returned from practice. “I crawled into Jazzy’s arms and I was like, ‘I don’t know what’s happening!’” Flatt says of facing sadness, relief and a question of identity upon retiring from her sport at 21.

This loss of identity is a familiar feeling for any athlete, but particularly for those who have performed at the world level. “You have to grieve, and no one talks about that at all in the sport,” she says. “No one prepares you for that feeling.” So, Flatt has chosen to channel her energy into creating digital mental-health tools to address athletes’ specific challenges, and sharing her experiences with internet-fueled body shaming to help others feel more secure when it happens to them.

Read the riveting Stanford magazine story for more on Flatt.