Pandemic affects athletes’ mental health at Tokyo Games

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by Gabrielle Tetroult-Farber and Elaine Liss

TOKYO (Reuters) – Isolation and the absence of family and friends have affected the mental health of athletes at the Tokyo Olympics, and some struggle to cope with the challenges of the pandemic while meeting their countries’ hopes on a big-stage global sport. are doing.

Simone Biles said she is carrying the weight of the world on her shoulders after she pulled out of a mass competition in artistic gymnastics on Tuesday. This burden seems to have been increased due to a year of suffering, loss and restrictions associated with the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Usually you spend time in the (Olympic) village, all that,” Biles said. “It sucks when you feel the weight of the world. There’s no escape with the amount of training we do.”

Athletes had their pre-Olympic training hampered by lockdowns and limited access to athletic facilities, and the postponement of the Games raised concerns about the qualifying calendar and the ability to travel internationally without contracting the virus.

Family and friends in Tokyo Bleachers couldn’t be happier for him and his movements are very restricted.

The pandemic has prompted the US gymnastics team to escape the hustle and bustle of the Olympic Village and stay at a nearby hotel for safety reasons, taking some of the sparkle from the Olympic experience.

“I’m not saying we don’t have a good setup,” Biles said. “We chose it to be sure about Covid, protocol and all.”

“tough trajectory”

Even before reaching Tokyo, athletes faced new and unfamiliar pressures associated with the pandemic. They needed to find ways to train through the lockdown and qualify for the biggest sporting event without compromising on their health or that of their families and communities.

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Russian Olympic Committee gymnast Angelina Melnikova said, “When we learned that the Games had been postponed due to the pandemic, our training base was closed. We were apart for a year and a half and trained all the time ” America will win the gold medal in the women’s team event.

Other athletes contracted Covid-19 on their trip to Tokyo, at the Games or in the early stages of the pandemic, which threatened to derail years of backbreaking work for the Olympics.

British swimmer Tom Dean twice contracted COVID-19 in preparation for Tokyo, forcing him to spend days in isolation and call off his training. The 21-year-old won gold in the 200m freestyle on Tuesday, helping Britain get off to its best start at the Olympics.

Other athletes who contracted Covid-19 were not so lucky.

South Korean fencer Oh Sengyu, who was hospitalized for a month with the virus, lost 15 x 13 against Georgian Sandro Bazadze in the quarterfinals.

Like so many people around the world, Olympic athletes have also lost their loved ones to the virus. Biles’ colleague Sunisa Lee, who won three medals at the 2019 Worlds, lost her aunt and uncle to the pandemic while preparing for Tokyo.

(Additional reporting by Sakura Murakami, Aaron Sheldrick, Amy Teneri, Omar Mohamed and Alan Baldwin)

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