Michael Johnson: “Mental health is a problem that affects all of us” – 10/10/2021

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MADRID, 10 October (EFE). Former US sprinter Michael Johnson, a four-time Olympic champion and eight-time world champion, cited cases of gymnast Simone Biles and tennis player admitting that “elite sport can be bad for mental health”. . Naomi Osaka, who told the world how negative is the impact of such pressure, to which they are submitted.

On the occasion of World Mental Health Day, Johnson remarked in a statement to Laureus Academy, of which he is ambassador, that when he learned that Naomi Osaka had pulled out of the Roland Garros tournament due to mental health issues, she ” “I don’t know what was really happening, which makes sense now, as Naomi herself said she’s still trying to figure out.”

“I was working for the BBC when Simone Biles skipped competition (some gymnastics tests) during the Tokyo Olympics. I’ve been thinking about Naomi a lot since Roland Garros. This time, I decided, I I’ll wait a bit. Simone spoke with sincerity and detail, and the more he did, the closer we were to understanding.”

For the former athlete, “the mental aspect of the sport can completely exhaust the physical talent of the best competitor”.

“Mental health is a problem that affects all of us (…). It is not something that can be diagnosed and analyzed in real time in broadcast booths or on social media. We have to listen,” he said .

Johnson also described the pressure on the elite athlete.

“When you get to where I was, or where Naomi and Simone are now, you’re doing your job in front of millions of people. No matter how physically prepared you are, it comes at a mental cost. I really want to win, but I may fail. I may never get this opportunity again. I can disappoint my teammates. My contract may not be renewed. And everyone is watching, all the time , “he explained.

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Johnson also cited his case at the 1992 Barcelona Games.

“I was 24. I was unbeaten in the 200m for two years, I was the world champion and the big favorite for gold in Spain. Then, just before the games started, I got food poisoning. The initial impact, I did ‘Don’t think illness would affect me on the track. I felt good. Until the (starter) pistol fired for the start of my summer. At that point, I felt like I was running into someone else’s body Go from there to the quarterfinals, but I didn’t make it to the finals,” he said.

“The US delegation traveled (to Spain) with sports psychologists and made an appointment to find me immediately. The team had recognized that what had happened to me was the kind of thing we call a ‘collapse’ – A downward spiral that’s hard to break out of. You might start doubting yourself, and that’s what was happening to me. But as soon as I sat in that hotel room with the staff psychologist, I realized it was him Not where I was. It might have been needed. It must have worked for some people. Not for me.”

The former runner said he was “lucky” to have support from his family.

“My parents were in Barcelona, ​​as were my siblings (he’s the youngest of five siblings). My dad came into my hotel room, and I knew I could tell him how I felt, What were my fears. He listened. Then he told me: ‘You didn’t lose a final. You didn’t win it. But you couldn’t even compete in it,'” he said.

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For Johnson, the Barcelona experience was the “biggest disappointment” of his career.

“And it didn’t end when I got on the plane back to the States. A few weeks later I was sitting at home, still thinking about it. And now I realize I had to think about it. I got angry. Was.” To be disappointed. I had to feel it all before I could process what had happened.”

“Eventually, I started thinking more and more about the three medalists in Barcelona. Gold, silver and bronze. In the two years leading up to the Olympics, I had competed a lot against each of them. And they never beat me. That if we met the following year, my chances of crossing the finish line first were much higher. I hadn’t done anything wrong. I hadn’t lost my charm. And I hadn’t stopped being the fastest sprinter in the world. 200 meters”, he said.

And this is what happened. At the next Olympic Games in Atlanta, he experienced “more pressure than at any time”.

“It was partly my thing. I didn’t want it any other way. In 1996 I knew who I was. I knew I was happiest and I knew I could perform at my best under the most intense pressure But it was,” he said.

“If I didn’t feel confident, I would not appeal to the IOC (International Olympic Committee) to change the calendar (of the competitors) and allow me to compete in the 200m and 400m at the Olympics at home.” argued.

In the end, Johnson won gold in both events, making himself eternal in Olympic history.

“Today is World Mental Health Day. But don’t try to put this question in a drawer. It’s impossible. It affects the sports stars and the people you share your life with, and it’s every one of them. It’s completely different,” he said. . EFE

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About the author: Sarah Gracie

Sarahis a reporter covering Amazon. She previously covered tech and transportation, and she broke stories on Uber's finances, self-driving car program, and cultural crisis. Before that, she covered cybersecurity in finance. Sarah's work has appeared in The Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg, Politico, and the Houston Chronicle.

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