KAWAGOE, Japan – Right after COVID-19 and the intense safety protocols that made these Summer Games possible, the most discussed topic this week in Tokyo has been mental health.
Simone Biles’ decision to withdraw from the women’s gymnastics team final, citing mental health concerns, ignited the conversation, and many Olympians, including big swimmer Michael Phelps, may sympathize.
It’s a conversation that has also found its way into men’s golf competition.
“You have to put yourself in the best physical and mental position and be at your best, and if you don’t feel like you’re there or you’re in that position, you have to make those decisions,” said Rory McIlroy. “I am certainly very impressed, especially by these two women [Naomi Osaka and Biles], to do what they did and to put themselves first.
Open field scores of the men’s Olympic competition
McIlroy also said Biles’ decision, which he “100%” agreed with, helped move the conversation forward and shine a light on the mental health of athletes at the highest level.
“There were a few athletes who really spoke out: Michael Phelps, Kevin Love, Naomi Osaka, Simone Biles. I mean conversation, it’s not a taboo anymore, people can talk about it just like someone has a knee or elbow injury, if you don’t feel 100% mentally well, that’s also a injury, ”he said, before developing further.
“I think in sport there’s always that notion of power and digging and you’re not a competitor unless you go through those things. So I think that’s probably part of it. But then when you hear the most decorated Olympian ever talking about his struggles and possibly the greatest gymnast ever talking about his struggles, then it encourages more people who felt that way to come out and share what they were feeling.