Gabbi Cunningham On How She Deals With The Pressures Of Being An Olympian - Exclusive

Gabbi Cunningham set her sights on the Olympics as soon as she started competing in track and field. Of course, lofty goals like that require dedication, discipline, and a mental and physical toughness that few people have in them. Cunningham is one of those few. Just five years after she scrawled the words "Rio 2016" in the sand while on vacation, she got word that she'd be on the Tokyo 2020 U.S. Olympic Track and Field team.

The pressure of training for the most elite competition in the world while living in the public eye is more immense than most of us can even imagine. But Cunningham deals with that pressure on a daily basis, and it's not always as easy as she makes it look. In an exclusive interview with Health Digest, Cunningham talked about how she deals with the expectations put on her by her coaches and the public, as well as the expectations she puts on herself — and how she stays sane under all that pressure.

She knows the importance of asking for help

Gabbi Cunningham confessed that the pressure of being an elite athlete can be overwhelming at times. "We have expectations for ourselves and then everyone else and everything else piles expectations on us too," she said. "That pressure builds up. Sometimes, it becomes so much that it pops for us as athletes."

Cunningham admitted that she's "still trying to work on" how to balance her expectations of herself, the expectations others have of her, and the pressure all those expectations create. But she doesn't try to figure it out all on her own. She made it clear that she asks for help all the time.

"I get better as the years go on, the more experience that I get, the more people I talk to, and me asking them questions," Cunningham explained. "I have younger athletes that ask me questions, but still, I am young in a sense. There's certain athletes that I might look up to, or even my coach. He's been in the places that I want to go, the places that I've been. Talking to him about it and how he managed, it helps a lot."

She also stressed the importance of having a strong support network outside of the sports world. Whenever she's struggling with something, Cunningham talks to her family and gets their guidance as well.

How fans can help

When the pressure builds up to the point where Gabbi Cunningham is ready to pop, one thing that's guaranteed to push her over the edge is negative comments from fans.

"I feel like they think they have an idea of the amount of pressure that is on us, but they don't necessarily know," Cunningham told Health Digest. "When we have down moments for ourselves, we don't need the negativity of putting us down even more, because we've already done it ourselves ... We know fans come out and they look for us to perform well ... We already know that when we don't, it's a disappointment to ourselves and it's a disappointment for them."

She shared that what athletes really need when they don't perform well or they break down during a competition is the love and support of their fans. Cunningham said that she's so grateful for each and every positive interaction she has with her fans, and getting supportive messages, especially when she's down on herself, helps her get back on the right track, mentally and literally.

You can catch Gabbi Cunningham speaking more on mental health in "I'm Fine, (Not) Really." Find your local station listings and airtimes for the documentary event at You can also visit to keep up with current initiatives, and follow them on Instagram at @MondoSportUSA and @MondoCares, and on Twitter at @mondocares.