Simone and Naomi don’t owe us anything. Periodtt.

The 2020 Tokyo have been unconventional, to say the least, and Team USA hasn’t had the best...

A quick recap of the Tokyo Olympics

The 2020 Tokyo Olympics have been unconventional, to say the least, and Team USA hasn’t had the best of starts, as the team failed to win any medals on the first day of the Tokyo Olympics – something that has not happened since 1972.

At the beginning of the games, China was leading, having the highest medals. But at present, the team has 31 medals in total, of which 15 are Gold, 7 Silver and 9 Bronze. The team comes second after the USA, which, as it stands, has a total of 38 medals, which is still a slow start.

The USA team has managed to snag 14 Gold, 14 Silver and 10 Bronze medals. However, the USA’s basketball team is struggling and has, for the first time since 2004, been beaten by the French team.

The team participating in fencing did not make it past the table of 16. The swimming team has done tremendously well and is responsible for a good number of the medals won. 

Team USA has been dealt a huge blow after two talented athletes opted out of the game. But even with the departure of Simone Biles to focus on her mental health, the team has managed to win a gold medal in gymnastics.

Eighteen-year-old Sunisa Lee, the first Asian-American member in the team, managed to win her first Olympic gold medal on July 29 – making her the fifth consecutive American gymnast to win Olympic gold in the individual all-round. She managed to beat her Brazilian competitor, Rebecca Andrade, after some heated competition.   

Simone and Naomi’s departure

Let’s be honest, we all have had the displeasure of interacting with people who have an “I know you are going through stuff, but what about ME?” attitude; people who feel that the sun and the moon rise and set for their benefit.

It is a disgusting kind of entitlement that trivializes other people’s pains and struggles and cares only about what they feel, especially when it comes to mental health.

Without a doubt, these kinds of people are the same people who feel greatly wronged by Simone and Osaka’s decision to quit the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.

At a personal level, no less; as if saying no is no longer an option, and when the two deigned saying it, it was deemed an excuse. It is understandable to look up to these players and want them to win, but they don’t owe you anything.

So who are they? Naomi Osaka and Simone Biles are renowned athletes in their fields. Naomi is, in fact, ranked No.2 worldwide and was playing tennis in the Olympics in Japan. She had the great honor of lighting the Olympic cauldron at the end of the opening ceremony in her native home and has won multiple grand slams.

Coming into the Olympics, she was expected to win but experienced a tough couple of games, and on July 27, she was eliminated from the games. After she lost in straight sets to Marketa Vondrousova of the Czech Republic, this move was ranked No. 42. A tough loss.

Simone Biles, on the other hand, is not to be messed with either. She is a gymnast and, in the 2016 games in Rio alone, won four gold medals. Things were looking up for her in the Olympics.

Still, a day after Simone’s elimination, July 28, Naomi Osaka withdrew from the games, citing a mental health issue after the US team finished second after the Russian. She was set to defend her title on Thursday in an all-around final and even managed to qualify for four event finals.

But Simone was not in the right headspace and is said to have said, “I didn’t want to go into any other events second-guessing myself.”

Their decision-making there names are arguably the biggest in the games. Perhaps, because the two prioritized their mental health over sports and sponsorships; an unprecedented move and something that a section of people finds hard to accept, seeing that the two were set to win the Olympics.

Mental health over the sport

There is, in fact, a lot of money on the line but at what cost? The pandemic caused a delay in the commencement of the game and brought to light a different kind of struggle for athletes- mental health.

Mental health is somewhat taboo in the sports world. We intentionally forget the people behind the athletes and choose to focus on the win and national pride they will bring home. We forget that they, too, have challenges, have faced loss, and suffer from anxiety and depression.

The weight of these expectations can get heavy, as was seen in Simone’s case and before her, Naomi.  

Biles, an advocate of mental health, even made a post on Instagram showing the extent to which the games were having on her mental health is taking on her. She said, “I truly do feel like I have the weight of the world on my shoulders sometimes.”

She made the decision to leave the games a few days later – for a very valid reason. It is essential to respect the women behind the sport, to remember that they, too, are human.

And in the words of Simone, “It’s OK to not be OK.” As it is with mental health and the stigma surrounding it, it is common for people to feel lonely, and Simone encourages people to speak out and said, “There is light at the end of the tunnel.” 

Mental well-being is essential to not only players, but to everybody as a whole. Yes, it enhances performance, but more importantly, I think athletes should only play when the game gives them joy.

When they are in a healthy mental space and with the staggering suicide rates in the USA, we need to be more sympathetic, and it would be unfortunate to have them turn just to statistics.

It should go deeper than hashtags to actually put in the work and facilitate treatment in these games where players are heard and can get treatment.

It is commendable to see athletes prioritize their mental health. To see a new era where they can up and leave if their well-being is on the line. And they may not know it yet, but Simone and Osaka have made a statement, and the world better listen.

The person behind the sport you like so much is human too. Some may say that mental health is being overused and is an excuse to escape accountability but athletes, I hope, realize that they come first. And as so for the world, let’s be supportive, check our entitlement, and go out and be better.  


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