Simone Biles’ decision to withdraw from the women’s team gymnastics final once again highlighted the extreme pressure that the world’s best athletes are under at Tokyo 2020.
After retiring from competition on Tuesday, the American said it was important that she protects her mental well-being and that the athletes are “people at the end of the day.”
Hours earlier, Naomi Osaka herself suffered a shock defeat in the third round of the women’s tennis competition. She also said the pressure and expectations surrounding her performance contributed to her struggles.
Osaka was truly the poster girl for those Olympics. Her face was plastered on billboards around Tokyo, with the four-time Grand Slam champion considered one of the favorites for the gold medal.
Likewise, the eyes of the world were on Biles on Tuesday. So much was expected of the 24-year-old, who even had a custom emoji made before the Games.
Pressure on athletes is nothing new, but we are now entering an era where those at the top of their sport are no longer afraid to talk about it.
Osaka was returning to tennis for the first time since dropping out of Roland Garros last month, citing mental health issues.
She, like Biles, has spoken openly about the challenges of being a global superstar.
American Olympic swimming legend Michael Phelps also spoke about the immense pressure he felt when competing
The 28-time Olympic medalist was open about his battle with depression which he says stems in part from the intensity of professional sport.
Last year, Phelps was part of a documentary called “The Weight of Gold” which examined the mental pressures of competing at the Olympics.
“Really after every Olympics I think I fell into a major depression,” he said in 2018.
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