Rowan Viles

The Olympics: An almost ritualistic event that captivates the world every four years. An event where the best athletes in the world come and face off to prove who is the number one competitor in their respective sports. These athletes have trained their entire lives working towards the highly sought after Olympic Games. In 2020 the entire world was turned on its head due to the COVID 19 pandemic, this led to the decision to postpone the olympic games, that were set to be held in Tokyo, by one year. Finally in the summer of 2021 the games were held. The games were incredible to watch, seeing the athleticism of all the competitors was inspiring. One thing that happened was unexpected and shocking and made many think differently about what it means to be a highly competitive athlete. Simone Biles took the gymnastics world by storm in the 2016 games. She was completing physical feats that no one had ever even attempted before, she also received 4 gold medals in 2016 while competing in 5 events. Needless to say she received the label of “best gymnast in history” very quickly. Fast forward to 5 years later at the 2020 games she was not performing where people had expected her to. She would ultimately pull out in the middle of the team event for the U.S. She later revealed that her mental state was not in a place where she could compete. This was possibly the biggest news of the 2020 olympics. Her decision to pull out because of mental health sparked world wide debate and discussion about what it means to be a top level athlete. Some people believed that her decision did not change the fact that she was the best in history while others claimed that being able to handle the pressure and expectations that Biles had comes with the title of “best in the world”. Meanwhile on the swimming side of the olympics another best in history made similar decisions. Adam Peaty is a swimmer from Great Britain who exploded in 2015 when he broke the world record in the 100m breaststroke at the British Championships. Ever since then he has been in a league of his own in the pool, he is essentially untouchable. In the 2020 olympics he won gold in the 100m breaststroke putting up a very impressive performance. In early August after the Olympics had ended he announced that he would be taking a 2 month break from swimming to focus on mental health. This decision will take away from him being able to compete in the upcoming world championships in December later this year. Mental health is on the rise in the Olympic scene and lots of awareness has been brought up about it. Not only have current athletes taken breaks, but past top level athletes such as the legendary Michael Phelps  have come out in support of Simone Biles’ decision. In the end this is a great step in the right direction for the longevity of these athletes and the sports themselves.