Pandemic takes toll on athlete mental health at Tokyo Games

TOKYO, July 28 (Reuters) – Isolation and the absence of family and friends have taken a toll on athletes’ mental health at the Tokyo Olympics, with some struggling to cope with the challenges posed by the pandemic while carrying their country’s hopes on the global sports stage.

After her stunning exit from the women’s gymnastics team event on Tuesday, Simon Biles said she felt she had been carrying the weight of the world on her shoulders. That burden seems to have been exacerbated by a year a grief, loss and restrictions tied to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Usually you hang out in the village, all that stuff,” Biles said. “It does suck when you feel the weight of the world. There are no outlets with the amount of training that we do.”

Athletes have seen their pre-Olympic training disrupted by lockdowns and restricted access to athletic facilities, and the postponement of the Games fuelled concern about qualification schedules and the ability to travel internationally without contracting the virus.

Their families and friends can’t cheer for them in the stands in Tokyo and their movements are heavily restricted.

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Source: Reuters, Gabrielle Tétrault-farber, Elaine Lies