Tokyo Olympics

Tokyo Olympics: How did elite athletes react to Biles' mental health concerns?

Team KT/Dubai
Filed on July 29, 2021
Simone Biles and Novak Djokovic. (Twitter)

Biles is the second elite athlete after Naomi Osaka to open up on mental health issues

Athletes’ well-being has been in the spotlight after superstar gymnast Simone Biles pulled out of two Olympic events to protect her mental health.

Biles arrived in Tokyo with hopes of breaking Soviet great Larisa Latynina’s record of nine gold medals at the Olympics.

Having won four gold medals at the 2016 Rio Games, Biles struggled to cope with the pressure of expectations in Tokyo.

“I truly do feel like I have the weight of the world on my shoulders at times. The Olympics is no joke,” Biles wrote on Instagram.

Biles has been overwhelmed by the support she has received after she decided to withdraw from the two events.

“The outpouring love and support I’ve received has made me realise I’m more than my accomplishments and gymnastics which I never truly believed before,” she wrote today on Instagram.

Biles is the second elite athlete after Japanese tennis icon Naomi Osaka to open up on mental health issues.

But men’s tennis icon Novak Djokovic, who is trying to become the first man to win all four Grand Slams and Olympic gold in the same year, offered a different perspective.

“Pressure is a privilege. Without pressure there is no professional sport,” said Djokovic.

“If you are aiming to be at the top of the game, you better start learning how to deal with pressure and how to cope with those moments.”

Meanwhile, Indian badminton star PV Sindhu who is trying to join an elite list of shuttlers by winning a second Olympic medal in Tokyo, revealed how she deals with mental health.

"Mental health is very important for athletes," she said. "I am in a very good space physically and mentally. Meditation helps me to be there".

British journalist Piers Morgan accused Biles of using mental health as an excuse for poor performance.

“Are ‘mental health issues’ now the go-to excuse for any poor performance in elite sport? What a joke. Just admit you did badly, made mistakes, and will strive to do better next time. Kids need strong role models, not this nonsense," Morgan wrote on Twitter.

But former England footballer Gary Lineker slammed Biles’ critics.

"As a former sportsperson that was fortunate enough to not suffer with mental health issues, it’s hard to comprehend what it must be like for those that do," Lineker tweeted.

"For those that have never participated in elite level sport, it must be even harder to understand… you’d have thought," said Lineker, taking a dig at Morgan. (with inputs from AFP)

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