The countdown to the Tokyo Olympics is on, and with 70 days remaining until kickoff, wrestler Helen Maroulis say’s she’s ready. But gearing up to take home gold for the second time didn’t come without some serious setbacks—even ending in a brief retirement—for the 29 year-old.
Featured in Procter & Gamble’s new film Your Goodness is Your Greatness as part of the brand’s Olympic Games Tokyo 2020 campaign, Maroulis made her Olympic debut at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Games, where she made history as the first-ever American to win a gold medal in women’s freestyling wrestling. Two years later, Maroulis sustained a serious head injury at the 2018 World Wrestling Championships, leaving her career uncertain.
“On August 7, 2019, I got hit in the ear and got another concussion,” Maroulis tells NewBeauty. “I got placed in a hospital beyond my will and I remember getting out and thinking ‘I am so broken. How could this person who just won a gold medal two years ago now be in this spotlight?’ They just felt like two totally different people.” Shortly after being treated for PTSD, Maroulis entered a brief retirement before realizing her career was far from over.
Today, Maroulis is vocal about the importance of mental health and being a force for good. “I’m grateful for my experience because you realize that you’re human, and no matter what you achieve or how low you feel, you’re still that same person. You’re human and there’s so much hope in that, and it made me resonate with so many people’s struggles.”
“My faith in God really got me out of that dark time, and really just the kindness and help from other people,” says Maroulis. “I honestly didn’t really know how to navigate life, especially when your brain isn’t working correctly, so you can’t really process emotions. I remember I didn’t want my parents to see me because I knew that would be hard on them. My family and friends in Colorado Springs and my doctors really helped me to heal.”
The Mental-Health Connection
“It’s interesting, because as athletes we’re supposed to just be excellent in our nutrition and our sleep and our training, but also in our mental health. So for me, I consider mental health as part of my training. I consider it such a priority. It’s been really cool to navigate wrestling these past years because a lot of my decisions are now based on what is best for me and my mental health, not what was best for competition, or the team, or what the coaches wanted. It was strictly about what was going to make me a healthier person, and I think that has helped me acquire more balance and enjoy life. I started playing the harp this year, and I started dancing three years ago, and those are really great outlets for me. I consider it part of training or therapy because they make me feel so much better after.”
Maroulis notes carving out time for self care, specifically skin care, is also hugely important to her. “It’s how I start and end my day,” she notes. “A couple of years ago I got into the Korean 10-step skin-care routine and I like that because it’s long and methodical. I did for a while and I really enjoyed it, but I still definitely double cleanse, I’ll use a vitamin C serum and then a moisturizer, but it really depends on where I’m training. The products I use when I’m on the east coast are totally different than what I need when I’m home on the west coast,” she says, calling out Olay’s Whipped Moisturizer and all-things SK-II as current favorites.
“Serums are great, even steaming my face is great. My skin tends to be more combination, but right now I’m hyper-focused on getting hydration into my skin because it’s so dry here in Colorado. So I have my beauty products that I use, but even just washing your face, making your bed or reading, as simple as it sounds, it’s such a good feeling after, it feels like you’re filling yourself up. I definitely take care of myself in that aspect.”
“My personal belief is that if you work on trying to be the best version of yourself, that will always positively impact others. If we’re all doing that, we’re all raising each other up together. Everyone is on their own journey and taking the time to be forgiving of yourself, to be kind to yourself, that goes a long way. If you can show yourself kindness, it’s easier to be kind to others.”
Maroulis has received a $10,000 grant from P&G’s Athletes for Good Fund for her work with When We Band Together, a program that offers support to refugees in Lesvos, Greece.
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