Two-time Aussie MotoGP world champion Casey Stoner has opened up on a fresh health battle even he didn’t realise was hurting his career.
Aussie MotoGP champion Casey Stoner has revealed that he was haunted by undiagnosed anxiety throughout his career and said: “the better weekend I had, the more I wanted to die”.
Stoner is one of three Aussies to have won the MotoGP Riders Championship along with Wayne Gardner and five-time winner Mick Doohan.
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But Stoner shocked the MotoGP world when he retired at 27, having spent seven seasons at the top level, where, after his first season, he didn’t finish any lower than fourth including two world championships.
The 2007 and 2011 world champion was a prodigy as his first title was on the Ducati, which was seen as an inferior bike, and he remains Ducati’s only world champion.
Stoner admitted he wasn’t enjoying the sport any more and, at the time, said “I don’t have the passion for it and so at this time it’s better if I retire now”.
However, in the last few years, Stoner has revealed more about his life, including coming clean on his debilitating chronic fatigue syndrome after going missing from events around the sport for three years before returning last year.
But this week, in a four hour episode of the Gypsy Talespodcast, Stoner opened up on his battle with anxiety, which went undiagnosed throughout his career.
Having been recently diagnosed, Stoner said it helped to frame some of the feelings he had through his career.
“I’ve only been very recently diagnosed with anxiety, which I didn’t actually know was a thing,” Stoner said.
“Quite honestly I thought it was just something people made up to say … another way to be stressed out. Everyone gets stressed.
“Even my back locks up from my anxiety. Between the shoulder blades. I can feel it come on now, when I’m in situations and it doesn’t feel comfortable.
“It would have been easier in my career if I knew about it and could maybe have managed the situation a little bit better. I got a bad wrap for being a little bit closed off from people and media, because I was never comfortable doing it. Crowds, I was never comfortable with. All of that side of it.
“And then race day … literally for years, until probably my last two years of racing MotoGP, the better weekend I had, the more I wanted to die.
“I would literally be curled up on the motorhome floor, sick as a dog, stomach in knots.
“I did not want to race. I could not feel any worse, any more apprehensive.
“I felt the pressure from the team, from everyone that had ever helped me, all the rest of it. You’ve got a team of up to 70 people there, and especially when you’re the number one rider, and everyone is expecting you to win every weekend, that built on me.
“And I only realised that after I finished my career, why I used to struggle so much with it.
“Then I got my own little mantra that helped me in the last couple of years, which was, you can only do what you can do, and you cannot do more than that.”
Stoner said he didn’t understand how other people — including the likes of Marc Marquez and Valentino Rossi — could embrace the fame and scrutiny that came with success at the highest level.
He said he was jealous of those personalities who “don’t seem to give a c***”.
Stoner revealed that he had to focus on preparation and making sure he ticked the boxes to keep going.
Mixed with his chronic fatigue, Stoner said he believed his past coping methods hadn’t helped either of his health issues.
Previously, he admitted that he “switched everything off” and said he was “very good at telling myself to suck it up and get on with it”.
Having returned to work in MotoGP at the Algarve Grand Prix in Portugal late last year, he explained his three-year absence from the sport.
Stoner had been a development rider for Ducati until 2018 before his illness forced him to walk away.
The 36-year-old explained his chronic fatigue syndrome left him “never more than 60 per cent of my usual self.”
“Since I finished my testing role with Ducati, I got my shoulder reconstruction which was fantastic,” he said at the time.
“I’ve struggled massively with my health. I got to the point where I couldn’t get off the couch basically for five months. From bed to the couch was my exercise for the day. I couldn’t explain anything, we couldn’t understand anything.
“Mentally I was struggling. Physically, massively. For the last three or four years now I’ve just been trying to manage the situation.
“Trying to learn how to conserve energy through the day. Learning what hurts me long term versus what not necessarily makes me better, but reduces the effect of my issue.
“The end of last year I started feeling a little better in December, January. I thought maybe I’m not coming out of it but I can manage this now. I started being able to do little bits during the day and not be too tired for the next week or two, which was really exciting.”