naomi osaka and simone biles
(Gregory Bull/Associated Press)

Osaka and Biles Reminded Fans of What It Takes To Be A Top Athlete

Gymnastics are not a strong point of interest for me. Every four years, when the Olympics come around, I flip through the TV channels and sometimes I land on gymnastics. A term referred to as “the twisties” has come across my ears throughout the past couple of days, but to be honest I had no idea what the term meant until I watched Simone Biles’ face as she attempted her only vault in Tokyo that evening. Biles hit the ground, landing on both feet, but even as a casual I could tell she was not confident with her performance.

“The twisties” reminded me of something I have gone through as a tennis player: the yips. The yips refer to a state where you can not seem to control your arm and how you hit the tennis ball. In the moment of facing the yips, you feel as though you have lost all motor skills, despite the fact that you know you can hit the shot.

What Happened To Biles?

Biles expressed her feelings about her performances, “I just don’t trust myself as much as I used to. I’m a little bit more nervous when I do gymnastics. I feel like I’m also not having as much fun.”

Via ocregister.com

One would think that after growing to be a veteran in the sport, nerves would gradually decrease, but in Biles’ case, the pressure caught on to her. With her words and her performance, anyone should understand her withdrawal from the team finals, and the individual events. Especially in a sport like gymnastics, where a couple of wrong twists or turns could result in career-ending injuries.

As I have scrolled through the internet recently, it has become apparent to me that Biles is receiving a mixture of criticism and commendation for her decision to withdraw from the Olympics to prioritize her mental health. Comments like, “She is a snowflake and is letting America down”, or “Simone Biles isn’t a true athlete”, are scattered across the web. Personally, I think that these types of comments and the pressure put on Biles is what caused her disappointing performance this year. Through her comments over the past couple of days, Simone has clearly illustrated that her mental health is not at the level she needs.

Naomi Osaka Faced A Similar Situation As Biles

Another athlete, Naomi Osaka, also has expressed mental health problems in the recent past. Both Biles and Osaka are of very young age, being under 25, and both compete in primarily individual sports. Osaka, a tennis player, went through a similar situation as Biles when she made the decision to withdraw from the Roland Garros tournament and the Wimbledon, citing mental health issues. Biles and Osaka have been quite outspoken about their mental health, and how it affects their young lives. Both state that as they have progressed and have become the faces of their sports, their mental health has deteriorated. Because Biles and Osaka started their careers at such a high level, and the pressure of maintaining such performances had an adverse effect on the mental health of both women.

Naomi Osaka also expressed her feelings on her performance, “I definitely feel like there was a lot of pressure for this,’ Osaka said. “I think it’s maybe because I haven’t played in the Olympics before and for the first year [it] was a bit much.” She continued, “I think I’m glad with how I played, with taking that break that I had. I feel like my attitude wasn’t that great because I don’t really know how to cope with that pressure so that’s the best that I could have done in this situation.”

Via bloomberg.com

Closing Thoughts

It is inevitable that both of these athletes will continue to receive hate for withdrawing from competition for mental health reseasons. As fans, we hope to witness a new record or a dominant performance by superstar athletes, but what we have to understand is that these superstar athletes are not also superhuman. They face the same problems and issues as any other individual, and star athletes like Osaka and Biles have to face significant pressure at young ages.

Over the past couple of weeks, Osaka and Biles have reminded us fans the limits that super athletes have to cross, and the lengths they go in order top keep us entertained and inspired. We may not have seen Biles cap off her career as the greatest gymnast ever, or Osaka win the gold for Japan, but we instead got a reminder to appreciate what all athletes go through to keep the sports world entertained.


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