They were taught to get over it or to be more resilient — to forget the doubts or demons and to focus on the task at-hand: winning. Dominating. Dominating.
Simone Biles was a master at this for many years. She realized suddenly, to many, that she was not in the right place.
Biles may have rewritten the mental health conversation that has been raging through sports this year by pulling on her white sweatsuit during Tuesday’s Olympic gymnastics meet.
Michael Phelps, who won a record 23 golds medals, is now retired. He has been open about his mental health issues for a long time. Phelps said that he considered suicide after the 2012 Olympics, when he was suffering from depression. He is now an analyst for NBC’s Swimming coverage and said that watching Biles struggle “broke his heart.”
Phelps stated that mental health has been a topic of conversation for 18 months. “We’re human beings. No one is perfect. It is okay to not be perfect.
Biles joins some other high-profile athletes in the Olympic space — overwhelmingly females — who have been talking openly about a topic that had been taboo in sports for seemingly forever.
Naomi Osaka, a tennis player, withdrew at the French Open and never made it to Wimbledon. She also admitted that she was too tired to deal with the Olympic heat after her exit in Tokyo.
Sha’Carri Richardson, an American sprinter, made no secret about the difficulties she faced while preparing for an Olympic journey that would never happen. She claimed she used marijuana to mask the pain from her mother’s passing, and the stress of running 100m.
Dutch cyclist Tom Dumoulin quit training camp in January in order to clear his head. He said he was having difficulty finding his way as Tom Dumoulin, the cyclist. On Wednesday, he won the silver medal in the men’s individual time trials.
Liz Cambage (a WNBA player competing for Australia) pulled out of the Olympics a week prior to their opening due to anxiety about entering a COVID bubble in Tokyo. This would have kept her family and friends away.
“Relying on daily medication for anxiety control is not where I want to be.” Especially walking into competition on the world’s biggest sporting stage,” she wrote on social media.
Biles took things to a whole new level. It’s now possible to do something that was almost impossible 24 hours ago. After taking a step back, she assessed the situation and decided it was not healthy to continue.
She pulled out of Wednesday’s all-around competition in order to concentrate on her mental health.
After the Americans won silver in the team competition, Biles was emotional and said that she had to do what is right for her and put my mental health first. She admitted that she knew she wasn’t in the right place hours before the competition started.
She said, “It was like fighting all the demons.”
Because of the difficulties young athletes face, the International Olympic Committee increased its mental health resources in advance of the Tokyo Games. A “Mentally fit Helpline” is a confidential service that provides support for mental health and has been established by psychiatrists and psychologists onsite at the Olympic Village. It will be available prior, during, and three months after the Games.
This free 24-hour hotline offers support in over 70 languages and structured counseling. If necessary, it can also provide guidance to IOC reporting mechanisms for abuse and harassment.
The IOC-developed Athlete365 website surveyed more than 4,000 athletes in early 2020, and the results led the IOC to shift its tone from sports performance and results to mental health and uplifting the athlete’s voices.
For various social media platforms, content was created to highlight current Olympians who are championing mental health causes. And the Olympic State of Mind series on Olympics.com shares compilations of mental health stories and podcasts.
“Are we doing enough?” I believe so. I believe so,” Mark Adams, spokesperson for the IOC, said Wednesday. “But, like everyone else in the world,” Adams said Wednesday.
Naoko Imoto was a 1996 Atlanta Games swimmer and is now a consultant for the Tokyo Olympic Committee on gender equity. She stated that Osaka’s early June admission about her mental-health problems was an opportunity for discussion.
Imoto stated that Japan still doesn’t talk about mental illness. “I don’t believe there’s enough understanding about mental health. But I think there are many athletes out right now saying it is common.”
After winning silver in Sunday’s 400-meter freestyle, Jack McLoughlin, an Australian swimmer, choked back tears. He described how the pressures of training during a Pandemic and pursuing engineering degrees nearly led him to quit swimming.
“All to my family and friends. McLoughlin stated that they really helped her out when she was really struggling. “I train up 10 times a week. It’s hard to do that when your goal is not to achieve it.”
With the entire world watching. John Speraw, the coach of the U.S. men’s volleyball team, was the son of a psychologist and hired a specialist for his athletes while he was at UC Irvine. Before becoming the Rio Games’ head coach, he was an assistant to two Olympic teams. He noticed that his players were using Facebook during the opening ceremony.
He said, “It was the most striking to me.” “I think that we are acutely aware of the external pressures and expectations placed on our athletes by increased scrutiny.”
Thriveworks, a counseling, psychology, and psychiatry services with more than 300 locations, found that one in three elite athletes suffer from anxiety and depression. Analyzing more than 18,000 data points, we found that 69% of negative comments were about female athletes, compared to 31% for male athletes.
It was clear that when attention is focused on an athlete, coverage becomes less enthusiastic. There were 29% of negative comments that exemplified the public pressures and criticisms athletes face. Kim Plourde, a licensed clinical psychologist at Thriveworks, spoke about how she works with elite athletes through the Alliance of Social Workers in Sport.
Plourde stated that female athletes must manage different expectations from themselves and coaches, as well as other athletes, media, fans, and media. These expectations range from their physical appearance to performance.
Jenny Rissveds, a woman from Sweden, was the youngest female cross-country mountain biking champion at age 22 when she won gold at Rio. Two deaths in her family caused depression a year later. Rissveds didn’t win another consecutive gold in Tokyo, but was happy to have finished the competition.
She said, “I’m so happy it’s over.” “Not just the race. But it was nice to no longer have to wear that title after all these years. I have a name, and I hope I can be Jenny now instead of the Olympic champion. That is a heavy burden.
“I hope I will be left alone now.”