Naomi Osaka & Simone Biles Are Addressing Olympic Anxiety

Olympic angst is nothing new. Here, Kurt Browning reflects back on his apology to Canada after the 1994 Winter games.

7/30/2021 8:00:00 PM

Olympic angst is nothing new. Here, Kurt Browning reflects back on his apology to Canada after the 1994 Winter games.

Osaka and Biles' decisions to sit out of competitions represents a shift in how athletes are coping with Olympic anxiety.

shows a disappointed Browning sitting next to his coach after the skate, saying, “I need a hug,” while an Olympics commentator voices over the clip with, “Disaster doesn’t begin to describe what happened to Kurt Browning.” Despite his devastating loss, the athlete carried on to do press, in which a reporter brought up his performance at the 1992 Albertville, France Olympics, where he

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fell on his triple Axel attempt. The interviewer asked if Browning felt he was “reliving Albertville” with this defeat, and questioned why he seemed to struggle at the Olympics despite having won world championships in the past.These are questions no one wants to answer, let alone think about, after enduring such a loss. Looking back on his experience, Kurt Browning tells FASHION he couldn’t explain a moment like that because it happens so quickly. “It was totally a mental thing,” he says. Imagine experiencing a heart-wrenching defeat and immediately having to explain on a worldwide broadcast how and why you failed. This is the reality of Olympic anxiety and competing in the games, but maybe it shouldn’t be.

U.S. Olympic gymnast Simone Biles has beenmaking headlinesfor her decision on July 28 to remove herself from both the team and individual all-around competitions at this summer’s 2020 Tokyo Olympics because of mental health concerns. The athlete spoke out about the extreme pressure that comes from competing in the Games and cited experiencing “ headtopics.com

the twisties” during practice: a term used among gymnasts to describe a phenomenon where their body and mind won’t cooperate, and as a result, they can’t perform skills.“There’s a strong connection between where your mind is at and your ability to perform a movement in the best way,” commented Toronto-based physiotherapist Bridie Nicholson, who added that athletes often seek help from sports psychologists to deal with the pressure of high-stakes competitions. “You don’t move at your best when you’re stressed or when you’re thinking about the pressure.”

“As soon as you don’t feel like yourself [and] you don’t feel right, then natural things become unnatural,” Browning says. Athletes are constantly in pursuit of “grace under pressure,” he added, but it doesn’t always work out that way.“Usually I loved the pressure because it was kind of exciting. It was like, ‘Oh, I like this, if I can skate and do this job and entertain people and have them stand up at the end, that’s the best. Let’s do that instead of falling.’ But when it didn’t happen, it was almost like someone else was doing it to you,” he explained.

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