TOKYO (VG) tennis star Naomi Osaka (23) and turn-based icon Simone Biles (24) have received the most attention. But more and more Olympic athletes are talking about the challenges they face off the field.
– I feel cried when we talk about it, says Norwegian discus thrower Ola Stunes Isene (26).
Talk to VG in the village of practitioners in Tokyo.
See everything from the Tokyo Olympics to discover +
Ice has struggled for many, many years with social anxiety.
He has now been asked what kind of comments he has received after telling his story to NRK a week before leaving for the Olympics.
– It has only been positive. I have received long and pleasant messages from completely random people. Suddenly, I no longer feel alone, says Isene.
Great theme at the Olympics
Mental health has become a hot topic here in Tokyo in recent days. At the daily press conference on Thursday with the IOC, the issue was raised several times by journalists from around the world.
Kirsty Coventry, chair of the IOC Athletes Committee, confirmed that they are seeing an increase in the number of practitioners who have recently come into contact with the issue.
– We have taken action and have, among other things, a 24-hour telephone that anyone can call. All Olympic athletes also have access to six free consultations with experts from around the world after the Olympics, Coventry said.
When Japanese tennis world champion Naomi Osaka ran down the stairs of the Olympic Stadium and lit the Olympic flame a week ago, the eyes of a whole world stared at her.
The 23-year-old is very popular and wins most women in the sport of tennis. But in May something unexpected came to light. Osaka boycotted press conferences at the French Open and the organizer received a fine of NOK 150,000.
Then the Japanese favorite opted to retire from the tournament.
She was exhausted after battling anxiety and depression. The fact that neither the tournament management nor the media believed his explanations made the situation worse.
– I always try to push myself to defend what I believe in, but it often involves a great deal of anxiety. I don’t feel comfortable being a spokesperson for athletes ’mental health, Osaka writes in an essay in the latest issue of TIME magazine.
– I hope people understand that it’s okay not to be okay. And that’s okay to talk about, he adds.
Arne Jørstad Riise is responsible for sports psychology at Olympiatoppen. The focus there is often on performance. But then the set must also be in place.
Riise talks about how top athletes like to feel the same worries as most people. Finance is a recurring theme: for many, it is anything but lucrative to be a top-notch athlete.
– There are economically difficult ceilings. And when you worry and also have to act in an Olympics a few years ahead, there can be a lot to deal with, Riise says.
He believes mental health has become increasingly concentrated in recent years.
– This is an issue that we take very seriously, he says.
Also in Oslo is Kristin Bergersen, Head of Mental Health Communications:
– Athletes should also be allowed to feel anxiety, depression and all that it entails. They often find themselves in situations with enormous pressure of expectations, both from others and from themselves. But very few of us are superhuman, she says.
He believes it has a positive effect on Olaf Tufte crying on television because his career is over, even though he cannot relate to mental health. Openness about emotions is important, also for athletes.
The Olympics at home were to be Naomi Osaka’s big comeback. Instead, he ended up in a sports downturn when he smoked in the third round against a woman who ranked 42nd in the world.
“Shock exit” wrote VG.
– I definitely felt a lot of pressure. I think it’s because I had never played in the Olympics and it was a little too much for me, Osaka said afterwards.
It would only take a few days for another great profile to open up.
Gymnast Simone Biles withdrew from the team competition when she felt something was wrong. After a messy start to the Olympics, she wanted to nurture her mental health, the 24-year-old told the Tokyo world press.
By that time, he had already given the world a little clue on social media:
“Seriously, I feel like sometimes I have the weight of everyone on my shoulders. I know I’ve removed it and I show that the pressure isn’t affecting me, but sometimes it’s deaf. Hahaha! The Olympics are no joke! ” wrote Biles.
More and more people are talking
The range of sports profiles that open up about mental health challenges is beginning to be long:
In addition to Osaka and Biles, athletics star Noah Lyles has done the same. Former Michael Phelps has had problems with depression. Lillestrøm player Tobias Svendsen (21) recently spoke about anxiety in an interview with VG.
Bullet striker Raven Saunders is aware she will have to prioritize mental health during the Tokyo Olympics.
And a few days before the Olympics, Australian national basketball team player Liz Cambage opted to retire from the Olympics. By then she had had panic attacks and knew with herself that she would have problems in Tokyo. Turned on Twitter the 29-year-old wrote, among other things:
I’m very worried about going to the “Bubble Olympics”. No family. No friends. No fans. No assist devices outside of my computer. It really scares my mind. ”
– Hopefully what you see at the Olympics now, when profiles like Biles and Osaka are presented and they say they are fighting, will make it more acceptable. It creates an acceptance that everyone has bad days every now and then, says Kristin Bergersen in Mental Health.
– I’m not alone
In Tokyo, Ola Isene is preparing for the disco competition that awaits in a few days.
It feels good in training. Things are going well and the 26-year-old is scheduled ahead of the Olympics.
At the same time, he is happy that the big stars are opening, he tells the VG journalist in the Japanese capital:
– I think it makes it easier. It’s a bit self-absorbed to think that “if I talk about it, it’s easier when the situation arises.” But it’s very nice to see that the big stars feel the same way. Then I am not alone. I am no longer different.