Athletes Aren't Invincible

Rick Rypien Fight vs. Brandon Prust - Photo by Red Mile

Rick Rypien Fight vs. Brandon Prust - Photo by Red Mile

As a child, staring through the glass of an arena, or the cage at a fight, most kids believe the hulking men before them are invincible.

These athletes take punches, hits, play through broken bones, receive stiches on the bench, and keep going. They are heroes to young girls and boys across the world for their athleticism, toughness, and perseverance, and we hold them on a pedestal as if their lives are untouchable.

But that’s not how life works. Players, athletes, and coaches deal with inner demons, they struggle with illness, addiction, and relationship troubles. And when they do, our media microscopes are there to pull them limb from limb, and to spread rumour after rumour about why?

Athletes aren’t invincible. This point became all too true this past week as the sports world watched the passing of MMA legend Shawn Tompkins, and NHL tough guy Rick Rypien.

Rypien admittedly fought a personal battle with depression. While on the ice, what fans saw, was the former Vancouver Canucks forward fighting for his teammates, and standing up for others. He was a spark plug that played on the ice with a heart two sizes bigger than his body, while he battled his own breaking heart off the ice. Rypien was 27-years-old.

Tompkins died of a heart attack in his sleep. At age 37, he was already a legendary MMA trainer, respected by fighters and athletes from every corner of the globe.

While Rypien was a performer on the television for many here in Chatham-Kent, Tompkins was an integral part of the local MMA community. Local fighters including Chris Clements, Jesse Gross, Chad Laprise, and Redemption MMA owner Chris Kimmerly all were directly impacted by Tompkins, many training with him at MMA camps or at Adrenaline Training Centre in London.

Any way you look at it, both cases are tragic. These athletes were looked up to in their circles, they were well respected, and loved.

At the heart of it, athletes, fighters, coaches, whatever name you give them, are not invincible. Behind every bloodied smile hoisting a belt or trophy, and under every competitive glare or undefeated record, is a person. Athletes and coaches are simply people, built up to be invincible by media, and the physically demanding professions they’ve chosen and excelled in.

From CKSN, our thoughts and prayers go out to the Tompkins and Rypien families, and all the fans and athletes who cared about these men.

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    Lawrie Maris 10 years

    This is a great story….well done.