American fencer Elizabeth Tartakovsky talks mental health ahead of Olympic debut in Paris

 

The 2020 Summer Games in Tokyo helped to change the conversation around mental health. 

Four-time Olympic gold medalist Simone Biles led the charge in speaking publicly about the challenges that athletes face and the difficulty in overcoming those moments on the world’s biggest stage. 

Speaking to Fox News Digital, American fencer Elizabeth Tartakovsky, who will be representing Team USA for the first time in Paris this summer, spoke about her own mental health journey and just how important it is that the topic now has visibility. 

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“I think it’s really great that right now we’re speaking so openly about mental health.”

“I reached success at a young age,” the 23-year-old New Jersey native recalled. “And then, once I started to get a little bit more mature, the field started to get more competitive, I realized that it’s a grind.” 

“You have to lose more than you win, to learn, and have to learn to be resilient.”

Tartakovsky comes from fencing royalty. Her great uncle, famed Olympic fencing coach and U.S. Hall of Famer Yury Gelman, was her introduction into the sport. She watched from home as he coached the men’s Sabre team to the silver medal at the 2008 Summer Olympics. 

Tartakovsky said she was “captivated” by the sport.

“I had never seen anything like it.”

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In a sport where mental focus and quick thinking are everything, seeing success from such a young age added another layer of difficulty. 

“I started working with a sports psychologist, maybe in high school, just to learn how to deal with all these different emotions, the pressure, expectations and also just learning how to perform well under stress,” Tartakovsky said.

“If you watch a fencing match, every point happens in two seconds. So, I had to learn how to emotionally and mentally prepare myself, how to recover in between losses, during rough patches in my fencing.”

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Tartakovsky, the 2022 NCAA Women’s Sabre national champion, will be 24 when she arrives in Paris for the 2024 Summer Games in what will be her Olympic debut. The goal is always gold, but Tartakovsky says she doesn’t want her experience to be “defined by the result.” She also recognizes that it’s anyone’s game.

“If it were just about who trains the hardest and who is the most athletic, then we would see the same person win every time, but that’s not the case. It’s really about who can show up on that day and be the most mentally dominant as well.”

She continued, “I think it’s great that there’s been a lot of visibility into that aspect of sports. And, it’s something that I’ve had to learn to deal with and kind of went on a journey of my own of learning about myself.”

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