Accessibility links

Breaking News

Eritrean Olympian Admits to Mental Health Challenges


Shannon-Ogbnai Abeda of Eritrea passes a gate during the second run of the men's giant slalom at the 2022 Winter Olympics, Feb. 13, 2022, in the Yanqing district of Beijing.

The only African to complete his race in this week’s Olympic men's giant slalom says he had to overcome mental and physical health struggles to reach the 2022 Winter Games.

Shannon-Ogbnai Abeda of Eritrea took to Instagram after his race on Sunday, detailing the obstacles he surmounted to reach the Olympics for a second time, after the 2018 games in Pyeongchang, South Korea.

"For those that do not know, after the last Olympics, I had to walk [away] from ski racing for the sake of my own mental health,” he wrote.

"My last Olympic cycle broke me physically and emotionally,” Abeda continued. “Having to deal with the injuries, numerous surgeries, repeated heartbreak, some abusive circumstances in my sport, I broke."

Athletes such as American gymnast Simone Biles have become much more open about the mental health challenges of top-tier competition. To reach the Olympics, many athletes have to sacrifice school, careers, social lives and any sense of normalcy in order to train – and recover from injuries.

According to his website, Abeda sustained multiple injuries on the slopes and had to undergo 10 surgeries to repair his knee and groin. For a time, he retired.

But he returned to skiing last September and qualified for the 2022 Winter Games three months later.

The skier said he went to "a really dark place,” adding, ''It took me a long time to find myself again.”

Abeda said he had sworn not to return to the Olympics.

FILE - Eritrea's Shannon Abeda reacts after competing in the Men's Giant Slalom at the Jeongseon Alpine Center during the Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympic Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea, Feb. 18, 2018.
FILE - Eritrea's Shannon Abeda reacts after competing in the Men's Giant Slalom at the Jeongseon Alpine Center during the Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympic Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea, Feb. 18, 2018.

In addition to setbacks caused by his injuries, he said things took another tragic turn. Abeda told his Instagram followers that he also had to deal with "the unexpected loss of someone I grew up [with].” He did not identify the person.

"I am not going to lie, getting back here was even more difficult than the last cycle” of competition, he said.

Despite juggling school and work, the 38-year-old said, “I made it and cannot be any more proud of myself for having overcome the barriers."

Shannon-Ogbnai Abeda placed 39th in the men’s giant slalom. He clocked two runs of under two minutes each — at 1:17:95 and 1:22:50 — for a total of 2:40:45.

Abeda said he plans to compete in the 2026 Olympics but that for now, he said he is determined to take some time to enjoy himself.

"I just don't know how yet or in what capacity. It is too early for me to talk about my future plans, but I will be back. This is not the end but the beginning,” he said.

XS
SM
MD
LG