- Mountain biker Jenny Rissveds won gold at the Olympic Games in Rio.
- Then she fell ill with a depression, managed for months only walks.
- She manages to return – because she no longer drives for herself but for the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.
The call comes abruptly. It's the end of September 2016, after the Rio Olympics. Athlete manager Johan Elliot has been following only the final day of the golf tournament, client Henrik Stenson fought for gold. Now, on the phone, a woman says, "Hello, this is Jenny Rissveds." Then she pauses, so Elliot realizes: Her name should tell him something. But he does not. She notices this and says, "You do not know who I am – perfect." It's the beginning of a partnership with an athlete Elliot will say in 2019: "She's incredible, in every way, I've been doing it for 20 years, but these three years have been a better experience than anything before."
Rissveds had been 22 at the time and just Olympic champion. But she had realized that she needed help. Elliot, the ex-golfer who represents golfers, formerly Martin Kaymer, had a good reputation. So she came to him – and the Swede to a client. Today Elliot has to smile about his ignorance. "When she returned from Rio, Sweden had a new Madonna," he says of Rissveds' status – she is the country's most famous and beloved athlete. Zlatan Ibrahimovic is the only one of the athletes they can get, Elliot thinks.
Rissveds unloads the most urgent tasks on Elliot's team, causing a chain reaction. "They took over my outer struggles – and gave me time and space to deal with me, so I realized how tired I was." She also informs her team boss Thomas Frischknecht. The 2017 season had begun well: She won a mixed race in South Africa with the former Zurich professional. "I assumed that was a winter depression, I never expected it to grow that way," Frischknecht recalls.
"That's funny," says Rissveds: "Now they're hugging me at the finish."
He should be wrong. As a result, Rissveds can barely muster up to drive. In the spring their grandfathers die in a short time. She misses the first four World Cup races, with the remaining two she is a shadow of the Olympic champion. Only one year after the biggest success of her career, her life is completely off track. She communicates this unfamiliar openly, her depression, later her eating disorder. The reactions she receives are surprising her: "Many top athletes came to me, there are many who struggle with similar problems, it helps to talk about it, and at the same time that's the biggest hurdle: to admit that you're not feeling well That makes it so incredibly difficult to change. "
Nevertheless, their situation gets worse. After the 2017 season, she just barely walks for six months. Otherwise, she spends the days in bed, posing existential questions.
In the meantime, the contact with Frischknecht almost breaks off. He travels to Sweden with his wife. "Winter is not for you if you're not feeling well, it's wet, cold and only light for three hours a day," he tells her. They discuss variants of cooperation – and also a contract termination. After a short period of reflection, Rissveds chooses the last option. She writes after that: "Thanks for the trip, it was a few incredible years of my life, everything went so fast, from experience to world cup victories to the Olympic title, but in combination with some circumstances and too much pressure, I went with it lost." Frischknecht says, "That was bad – not being able to help her."
Elliot accompanies Rissveds in the replacement process from their previous lives, with the exception of two contracts, all sponsorship contracts are terminated. In time, she, who shares her life very openly, also prescribes timeouts from the social media. "There are several studies that show how much negative stress these can have on people's lives, and now I'm deliberately sharing my time," says Rissveds. In May 2018 she begins to train again. She describes this moment in retrospect as follows: "It was not the gold medal that caused butterflies in me, but the fact that the body and mind worked together again."
She knows how much biking means to her. But also that she does not want to do it the way he did before. "She said, 'It should not be about me,'" says Elliot. As his business partner remembers a concept that the agency once wrote: Team 31. The number stands for Article 31 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. It is about the right of the child to rest and leisure, to play and age-appropriate active recreation. Rissveds concludes, "I do it my way now, and with the opportunity to support the next generation, realizing that if I give myself a minute to a child, it can change my perspective, that's definitely one new dimension. " From now on, she drives for children.
Your jersey is practically free of sponsor logos, but the 31 emblazoned on it. She uses her time differently from training and races. Not for sponsor and customer events. But for activities with children, whether on a mountain bike, football or yoga. In order to gain more publicity, the project also needs the sporting success. And this one returns. Their World Cup ranks since the comeback: 33, 5, 9, 3. Frischknecht says: "I now see them at 95 percent, when she reaches the 100 again, she wins." The scene is happy about the return, even the competition. Nobody notices this more than Rissveds himself. She tells her manager: "That's funny: Now they're hugging me at the finish line." That's how it was on Sunday. Since she won the cross country world cup in Lenzerheide for the second time.
Sports (t) Süddeutsche Zeitung (t) SZ