Simone Biles is considered to be the greatest gymnast of all time. She is considered the ‘American face’ of the 2020 Tokyo olympic games. However, she withdrew from her gymnastics events after stating that she wasn’t mentally in the right space to compete. Later, she revealed that her aunt had passed away during the games. Naomi Osaka lost in the third round of the Tennis event saying that she didn’t know how to cope with the pressure of representing the host country. Novack Djokovic threw a tantrum after losing the bronze medal match in Tennis, then withdrew from the mixed doubles event. Just days before, when asked about how he handles pressure, he said ”pressure is a privilege”, implying that pressure no longer affected him.
Either way, the athletes’ actions and decisions received both criticism and praise from people and fellow athletes. However, if anythings clear, it’s that Biles has changed the way mental health is dealt and talked about in sport. Redefining what it means to be a great athlete and a team player. Olympic champion Chris Mears (3m synchronised springboard) praised Biles and talked about how now one taught him how to be an olympic champion, having to battle depression.
The difference in reactions to pressure teaches us important lessons, both Biles and Djokovic faced immense pressure, but only one handled it well. Biles could have chosen to compete, but she would have risked serious injury and potentially costing her teammates a medal. Djokovic wasn’t playing at his usual standards, so he threw a tantrum and took the chance away to win from his doubles partner. Either way, both didn’t have it easy, but like Djokovic said, if you want to be at the top, you have to learn how to deal with pressure.
To many of us, the Olympics is entertainment, a chance to act like we know everything about a sport we don’t, to criticise and praise athletes, to be pleased or disappointed. They may look like they’re superhuman above all of their great achievements, but we should not forget that they experience the same things we do.