For millions of Americans, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) is a debilitating disease that has the ability to consume one’s life. For one Olympic hopeful, Virginia “Ginny” Fuchs, OCD has become her biggest rival.
With the 2020 Olympics almost exactly a year away, Fuchs is battling more than her boxing opponents. For 20 years, the 31-year old has had OCD, which recently got so debilitating that she needed inpatient treatment, for the second time in her life.
She is at the top of her game, having enjoyed a 17-0 record in 2017 and capturing the bronze medal in the flyweight at the World Championships in 2018. The real fight begins when she steps out of the ring.
Fuchs is obsessed with contamination and cross-contamination like no other “germophobe.” She spends hours cleaning anything that might have been exposed to germs.
“My mind is constantly thinking, ‘What did that touch?’” Fuchs told The New York Times.
Typically boxing is not the sport you want to pursue if you are worried about germs. Blood, sweat, and saliva of your opponents is most likely to land on you during a match or sparring.
However, for Fuchs, she is so hyper-focused during her matches that she says it’s the only time when OCD doesn’t affect her. But outside the ring, it’s a huge battle for her.
At the height of her OCD, she would go to Walmart three times a day for cleaning supplies. The Assistant U.S. Boxing Coach, Kay Kumura, opened the trunk of her car one day to find her disposing of things that had “touched something else.”
Her sister has found hundreds of latex gloves and unopened tissue boxes in her garbage. And her mom shared, “She’ll buy flip-flops, wear them for an hour, and throw them away.”
Fuchs cleaning has been beyond obsessive, often leaving her with only 3 hours of sleep a night and trying to function as a high-level athlete.
“It made no sense in my clear mind,” Fuchs admitted. “But in my O.C.D. mind, it had to be done or I couldn’t move on with my day.”
Every athlete showers after playing. But Fuchs’ pre-shower cleaning took an hour to wipe down the shower from germs, and another 3-4 hours sanitizing her body with multiple bottles of shower gel and at least a bar of soap. To top it off, she spent half an hour brushing her teeth with 9 toothbrushes. Her dentist warned her that she could brush the enamel off of her teeth.
Her teammates saw her OCD as well. Whether it was noticing that she put her hands in her sleeves when doing pushups on the mats, or standing on her shoes before weigh-ins to avoid touching the mats, it became obvious she had a severe disorder.
Her teammate Claressa Shields, Olympic middle-weight champion saw Fuchs at her worst. When her other teammate Mikaela Mayer’s shoe touched Fuchs, “Ginny freaked all the way out,” Shields explained. “She ran to a shower and we didn’t hear from Ginny for a couple of hours.”
She is working with three psychologists who are providing her with goals and strategies to combat her OCD. “Sometimes I’m able to be strong and do what we planned,” Fuchs said, but on other days, she still struggles.
But like the best coaches and teammates, they believe in Fuchs. “Ginny can definitely beat this O.C.D. thing,” Shields believes. “She wants to beat it. But just like you won in boxing, you got to get prepared. You got to take steps and make small goals.”
We hope that the support of the U.S. Women’s Olympic Boxing team and her extreme talent will propel Ginny Fuchs to overcome her OCD and end up on the podium in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.