Sam Mikulak was furious. The COVID-19 He had completely changed his preparations for Olympic competition Gymnastics, moreover, postponed Tokyo Games 2020 Until 2021.
The discomfort lasted for a while and made him analyze all the ways gymnastics perfection affected the rest of his life.
“I had to rethink everything, and learn to enjoy the imperfections,” he commented. “Now I’m happier about it. But it was tough and I’ve had bad times. Quarantine was the only time in my life that I could weigh all of that.”
in the waiting room Tokyo GamesIt’s clear that for some of the best athletes in the world, getting to the championship was more of a mental challenge than a physical one.
Pandemic and racism
Postponed by COVID-19 It has altered the planning of the years and the uncertainty associated with a never-ending pandemic except for growing anxiety. On the other hand, the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis by a police officer in May 2020 forced the world to confront racism and it was felt strongly among black athletes.
“Last year has been tough for the black community,” swimmer Simon Manuel said during qualifying trials in the US. He added that after the loss, he was diagnosed in March that he had overtrained and was recommended to take three weeks off.
Preparing for Tokyo during the pandemic has been particularly difficult for Jenny Fox, an American boxer who suffers from obsessive-compulsive disorder and fights it partly through her preparation routine.
“We didn’t know when we would train. Where we would settle. When would the qualifying tournament be,” Fox said. I didn’t know what to do and when you don’t have a plan, that’s where I get in trouble.”
Ashley Gentle, a 30-year-old triathlete from Australia, took a breather when the COVID-19 shutdown. She set out to renovate her home with her partner, ultramarathoner Josh Amberger.
But the Gentle family lives on the Gold Coast, south of Brisbane, and he really missed it.
“Of course I was worried about them,” she said. “We couldn’t get more than 50 kilometers (30 miles) from home, so I couldn’t visit them. It was difficult.”
Athletes have more resources than ever when it comes to their mental health, especially those of the larger sports federations. And today they are more willing to seek psychological help.
David Hughes, medical director of the Australian Institute of Sport and the delegation that will go to Tokyo, said the athletes would get “immediate psychological services” during the games and virtual sessions if they had a psychiatrist treat them. It already has structures to provide emergency support.
The United States offers similar services, including a dedicated hotline that receives about eight calls per week and specialized support groups on specific topics.
“We are doing psychiatric profiles for all the athletes who will be attending the Games,” said Dr. Jessica Bartley, director of mental health services for the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee (COPEU). “We get key information on the mental health of all athletes in all sports.”
COPEU trained on its assessment program with swimming and determined that nearly 60 percent of swimmers suffer from some type of mental disorder. The most common problems are nutrition, sleep, and anxiety.
When asked if the Tokyo Games place more demands on athletes than in the past, Bartley gave a vague answer.
“Sports provide athletes with some protection and pose certain risks,” he said. “It is not clear whether the athlete has more or less difficulties than the general population. They face different situations. It seems to me this year that they have more things ahead of them than in the past.”
Britney Reese, who competes in the long jump, was at the Olympic Training Center when the facility was closed by COVID-19. She said she has her coach, family, and agent to thank for helping her go to her fourth Olympics.
She also worked with a sports psychologist who gave her practical advice that helped her a lot.
She said to herself, be yourself. “I’ve already done this a few times. I know what it takes and what to do.”