The Norman Transcript

Sports

December 22, 2012

Fall from grace

NORMAN — Her image could hardly have been better: Athletic. A knockout. All-American. So accomplished and so wholesome that Disneyland hired her for speaking engagements, the Big Ten named an award after her and the Wisconsin Potato and Vegetable Growers Association made her their pitchwoman.

Yet something troubled Suzy Favor Hamilton. The former track star out of Wisconsin, whose speed and talent took her to seven national championships and three Olympics, ultimately dealt with her demons by stealing away to live a life as a highly paid prostitute.

An “escape,” she called it, that was really a way of masking an American Dream coming unhinged — a real-life tragedy that undercut the myth that success, wealth and fame is a surefire path to happiness.

“I do not expect people to understand,” Favor Hamilton said in a frenzied burst of tweets after details about her secret life became public Thursday in a report on The Smoking Gun website. “But the reasons for doing this made sense to me at the time and were very much related to depression.”

Stanley Teitelbaum, a psychologist who wrote the book “Athletes Who Indulge Their Dark Side,” said it’s not so difficult to understand. After retiring, and spending most of her life trying to live up to a certain ideal and getting her highs from the adrenaline rush of elite, competitive sports, day-to-day life in the civilian world can seem boring.

“You’ve got to think of an emotional outlet, maybe in her case, a nonconventional outlet, a way of getting high by somehow being a bad girl in contrast to her image of an upstanding, Olympic athlete,” Teitelbaum said.

In an interview earlier this year with the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Favor Hamilton said she dealt with anxiety, an eating disorder and struggled with postpartum depression after the birth of her daughter, Kylie, now 7. But, she told the newspaper, “I feel better than I’ve ever felt.”

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