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Performing in the Olympics comes with stress and anxiety that is no different from what a singer or actor performing on a stage may experience. These struggles that many Olympic athletes face have been prominently resurfaced during the recent Tokyo Olympics because of gold medalist, American gymnast, Simone Biles. After competing in one of the four main events, Biles dropped out and said that her withdrawal was because of struggles related to her mental health. She stated in a press conference, “I just feel like we have to focus on ourselves as humans, not just athletes because I feel like we lose touch of our human feelings sometimes.” She further explained how the Olympics has been especially stressful this year because of the pandemic.
Biles’s decision to give priority to her mental health received positive responses from her teammates, coaches, fans, and other Olympic athletes. It inspired a conversation about athletes dealing with their mental health. Many times, an athlete’s physical strength does not equate to similar emotional or mental wellbeing and there is a lot of stigma for them to seek out the appropriate help. When Biles stepped up and took a stance, she opened an outlook for both male and female athletes looking to relieve the pressure and stress they face.
Anzhelika Sidorova, a Russian athlete competing in pole vaulting also broke the silence by sharing her experiences going to a therapist and dealing with the stress of the Olympics. While women may have initiated and normalized this discussion, there were also male athletes who felt inspired to share their stories as well.
Noah Lyles, the American sprinter, brought to light his experience when he burst into tears after coming in third in the 200 meters final. He spoke about his battle with depression and anxiety.
When athletes are able to receive the appropriate help to relieve their stress, anxiety, or depression, they perform better. Remaining consistent at every game or performance has been an expectation held for far too long and now the reality has come to light after the Tokyo Olympics and courageous athletes, especially women, have opened up the conversation to the rest of the world.