Stephanie Labbé, whose heroics in goal helped Canada win gold at the Tokyo Olympics, says she could not train for part of the Games because of “high levels of anxiety and multiple panic attacks.”

The 34-year-old from Stony Plain, Alta., who has shared her mental health struggles in the past, has opened up again to publicize FIFPRO’s “Are You Ready To Talk” — a mental health awareness program from the organization representing 65,000 pro footballers worldwide.

A rib injury forced Labbé out of Canada’s opening game against host Japan at the Olympics. Ultimately the verdict was she could continue playing, albeit in pain. Labbé missed just one game, returning to lead Canada to penalty shootout wins over Brazil in the quarter-final and Sweden in the final.

‘I couldn’t train between the quarters and the final’

But it came with a cost, as Labbé explains in an essay, released by FIFPRO, titled “Winning the Olympics isn’t enough to cure mental health.”

“I had no idea that this injury would trigger an underlying vulnerability in my mental state,” Labbé wrote. “My adrenalin was so heightened, and my neuromuscular system was so finely tuned that I struggled to come down between games, which resulted in high levels of anxiety and multiple panic attacks. It got to the point where I couldn’t train between the quarters (quarter-finals) and the final because I was so overstimulated.”

Labbé said she knew it was not performance anxiety.

“Looking back, I realize that it was a buildup of everything that I had experienced over the last year — the pandemic, the change of coaching staff, the lack of clarity over my position in the team — getting to the Olympics wasn’t just a magical cure for all of this.” she said.

WATCH | Canadian women’s soccer team claims Olympic gold:

Canadian women win gold after roller-coaster penalty shootout

Julia Grosso scored the winner, while keeper Stephanie Labbé stood tall in Canada’s wild 3-2 win over Sweden on penalty kicks. 14:07

“When that final whistle blew and we won gold I was expecting overwhelming relief, but it just didn’t come. No matter how much I wanted to relax and celebrate with my …….


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