Simone Biles, claimed by most as the greatest gymnast of all time, withdrew from many of her Olympic events this past week due to mental health issues.
The only event she did not withdraw from was the beam final on August 3rd, which was the very last women’s gymnastics event. Even with her mental health issues, Simone had a phenomenal performance and won a bronze medal.
On Tuesday, July 27th, Simone competed in the first round of the team final where she made a dangerous mistake on the vault that could have paralysed her.
Thankfully, due to her extreme athleticism, she was able to land without greatly harming herself.
Her mistake was caused by a dangerous phenomenon called “the twisties”, which is when a gymnast becomes incredibly disoriented in the air and completely loses her sense of where she is in relation to her surroundings.
Simone has talked about how she feels an immense amount of pressure from the world to meet society’s expectations of her and live up to the standards of being one of the greatest athletes of all time.
Simone was uncontrollably shaking before her meet and could barely nap. There are also other factors that have negatively affected her mental health.
She has ADHD, and this personal information was released to the world when Russian hackers broke into her health records.
She was bullied in high school for her athletic build and was molested by the former United States women’s gymnastics team doctor, Larry Nassar.
In addition to common mental health effects the pandemic has had on people, athletes had to deal with competitions being postponed and long training breaks from the sport their world revolves around.
Simone said that she was holding on to the fact that there were only three more months of training until the Olympics.
When she found out the Olympics were postponed she knew she had a lot more intense training ahead of her and time for her anxiety to build up.
She was also affected by her team taking seven weeks off.
A lot of athletes’ lives are centred around their sport.
When they take time off they feel like there is a void in their lives.
All of these circumstances made her very depressed when the 2020 Olympics were first postponed.
Most of these mental health issues come from the extreme pressure of wanting to win and the void they feel when they are not training or competing.
The media adds to the pressure, as it brings a lot of attention to the athletes and can be very critical.
The media also does not allow athletes the privacy they want, as seen when Simone’s ADHD diagnosis was released to the world.
Olympic athletes that are less known or have not won medals yet are often paid very little.
Olympians have very expensive training, which increases their financial burden.
Mental health issues in athletes are a growing and concerning issue.
The issue has finally been brought to light in recent years as many athletes have begun to speak out about their mental health and society’s opinion on mental health has become more accepting.
Because mental health in athletes has been brought to life, more athletes are reaching out for support.
However, it is still a very serious problem that is persisting and growing.
Photo by Gregory Bull, Associated Press