Hi, this is Inma here. I am sorry to disappoint those expecting one of Con’s well-waited posts where he normally shares soccer tips. Usually, I am in the backline helping him to structure his endless knowledge. However, today I would like to share my takeaway lesson from Tokyo 2020 as it intertwines with two of my passions, gymnastics and people’s well-being, which can be applied to soccer players and all of us.
I still remember like it was yesterday when I saw Simone Biles competing for the first time years ago. I was so impressed by her “so different” presence from the rest of the athletes we watched over the years. Indeed, so far, the competition was led by the delicate appearance of the East European athletes performing precisely like majestic swans in their beloved lake. Then it comes to Biles in Rio 2016, running to the vault showing the same determination on her dark eyes like a bull getting into the arena and ready to fight. Since then, her achievements have been almost inhuman as she becomes the female gymnast with most World all-around titles. Indeed, Tokyo 2020 was her turn to surpass the goddess Nadia Comaneci.
Thanks to the unliked lockdown in Victoria, this time, I had the opportunity to watch all the gymnastics rounds so far. Moreover, in Biles’ first exercise, which was on her favourite apparatus, I could tell that she wasn’t like the gymnast that she used to be. Not only because of her not so perfect performance but her weak body language and lack of concentration. Consequently, she withdrew from the competition due to “medical reasons.”
On the other hand, her young teammate Suni Lee took the lead for her team, put her hands up, and performed Bale’s floor exercise that wasn’t part of her schedule a few minutes earlier, with the broadest smile on her face. As a result, the USA woman’s team got a silver medal.
A few hours later, we found out the real reason for Bailes’ leaving the competition. She described a mental health issue as “Twisties” — a sensation where gymnasts lose their sense of position in the air — felt like.
Then it comes to my analytical personality…How could it happen to this incredible athlete that showed so much resilience over the years? We must recall that she has been going through hell when their team’s doctor sexually abused her and her teammates while they were competing at the highest level. So why now?
On the other side of the coin, it was the giggly and charming lady Suni Lee. An 18-year-old gymnast who landed in Tokyo after having a terrible year. She has been taking care of her father, who got paralysed recently, she lost two family members due to Covid, and she has been fighting against a significant foot injury. However, she was determined to put all the drama aside and take a gold medal back home, and she did in the individuals.
That is to say, how can this young athlete perform her best while her master’s teammate broke down? Eventually, Biles gave us some clues when he declared, “I got a lot of messages and comments on Twitter that pulled my demons out.” It made me realise that this may have happened because the two athletes have a complete mindset. While Biles was so concerned about what the trolls and haters had to say, Lee was 100% focused on her goals and what she wanted to achieve.
So, this is my takeaway from Tokyo 2020: Mental illness doesn’t come overnight!
For instance, to avoid it, we have the responsibility to be aware of what we put in our brains as what we put in our mouths. We all know that unwealthy food will lead to diabetes, cholesterol, etc… Likewise, we are challenging our mental health by feeding our minds with toxic information, and unfortunately, during these challenging times, we have been bombarded with plenty of that.
More than ever, we must be the best gatekeepers of our minds and keep the guards up. Otherwise, it can lead to a disastrous outcome that will affect ourselves, and everyone else’s who shares the same boat. Sports or work teammates, family members, employees…, etc., can be drawn with us only because we lost focus on what truly matters. Like the biggest tragedy in the cruise’ history, which was caused by the Titanic’s captain dismissing a key iceberg warning while speeding, and his crew’s lack of binoculars led to the loss of 1500 people.
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