JO-2020: when the head makes more talk than the legs
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Simone Biles was to leave her mark on the Tokyo Olympics with a new acrobatics and a raid of medals, but the gymnastics superstar marked them with these words: she said stop when her head no longer controlled her legs, making the mental health the surprise guest of these Games.
“Bringing the topic of mental health to the table means a lot to me because people need to realize that we are humans,” the American said the night she finally made her comeback and won a medal. bronze on beam, after giving up four finals.
However, she is not the first to have cracked. In the Australian night, more than twenty years ago at the Sydney Olympics, the French athlete Marie-José Pérec, reigning Olympic champion in the 200 and 400 m, had given up on lining up at the last moment, consumed by the pressure .
A sign that mental health is a little less taboo – it is so often in society in general – athletes put words on their torments and now start talking about it even when they are still active.
– « Courageous approach » –
« I find that it is a courageous step at a time to put words on a suffering. We had also seen it with Naomi Osaka some time ago », explained to AFP Anaëlle Malherbe, psychologist at the Insep (National Institute of Sport, Expertise and Performance), which assists certain athletes from the French delegation, but from a distance.
The day she stopped in full competition, Simone Biles immediately explained that her mental health also had an impact on her physical performance. No longer locating herself in space, she literally risked breaking her neck if she missed a stunt. Vicious circle, the phenomenon of « loss of face » from which she is affected is aggravated by stress or worries.
Even more than mental health, ultimately, she talks about the connection between her body and her mind.
“Some thought Naomi Osaka was crazy or that she behaved like a diva! Finally seeing another great champion like Simone Biles having the same attitude, giving up for similar reasons, is sobering. I hope people will understand the complexity better. ! « , reacted the French handball player Allison Pineau.
– « Not a normal job » –
A reflection shared by the British swimmer Adam Peaty, 26, double Olympic champion, who announced that he was taking a break, also evoking heavy mental fatigue.
« It’s not a normal job, » he said. « You see it in all sports. You see it with Simone Biles. You saw it with Ben Stokes (English cricket champion who has just announced that he was taking a break to focus on his mental health, note). mental health matters, and it’s about having the right balance at that level, ”commented the swimmer.
« The pressure that is put on the elites, on the very high level athletes who perform and who are expected behind is very strong », abounds Anaëlle Malhberbe. « An athlete who lasts over time and performs well is also an athlete who feels good in his various areas of life, » she explains.
With her sixth and seventh Olympic medals around her neck, silver in the team all-around and bronze on beam, Simone Biles proclaimed it loud and clear: « My physical and mental health matters more than any medal I can ever get. to win ». An unusual statement, even against the tide, in the mouths of champions, but probably saving.
© 2021 AFP