The debate travels the world and it is worth paying attention to it. He was not born at the Tokyo Olympics, but the decision of the American gymnast Simone Biles, at age 24 the best in the world, escalated him exponentially.
And what did Biles do? It is known: he gave up competing in two finals, one for teams and one individual, on the grounds that he needed to take care of his mental health. “I have to focus on my mental health and not jeopardize my well-being”, He said.
The resignation of Naomí Osaka, winner of four Grand Slams and star of women’s tennis, to Roland Garros in May was immediately recalled. The Japanese had also resorted to taking care of her psychic balance to explain the decision.
In the Argentine delegation to the Games, without going to the extreme of abandoning the competition, Delfina Pignatiello decided to minimize her activity on social networks: “People are very cruel and no matter how much they ignore, I want to take care of my mental health above all things.”
The psychology of highly competitive athletes has never been in such a close spot. But the exceptional thing was not only that two world stars decided to get out of the most important tournaments, but the succession of support and praise they received. The admission of his impossibilities was celebrated and welcomed as necessary.
Even more. Novak Djokovic, who in opposition to Biles stated that “Pressure is a privilege. Without pressure there would be no professional sport “, ended up becoming the center of criticism. The tennis number 1 said nothing serious, but his supposed callousness placed him as the bad guy in the movie.
For the Mexican journalist Mauricio Cabrera, the novelty raises “A reconfiguration of the way high-performance sports competition is assumed. We went from the praise that is imposed on all kinds of adversity, to the applause for those who decide to stop in order to be well with themselves… ”.
The reactions to the Biles case seem to agree with him. But will it be so bad?
Two lines to try to understand what is the disruptive novelty of these days. The answer, as so often, is social media. To the analysis processed by the language and journalistic practice that athletes previously received, today fierce and direct criticism is added. Are the haters (haters), who define the new scenario. And that look is what is unbearable for many.
But let’s go on. This Monday, the athlete from the Netherlands Sifan Hassan questioned the supposed new paradigm. During the qualifying round in the 1,500-meter race, he suffered a fall and was second to last, but got up and running furiously surpassed his rivals to finish at the top. His effort, which moved millions, responded to the most classic sports epic: one who overcomes adversity (getting up after falling, literally) to succeed. A few hours later, and to increase his figure, he won gold in 5,000 meters.
Some final questions appear. Are Biles and Hassan located on opposite paths? Can the two be examples, having embodied opposite attitudes?
There is no single answer, of course. The athlete capable of exceeding himself will always offer an inspiring and transcendent model. The values of the present add up to those who know how to step aside to protect themselves. Perhaps there is no contradiction between one thing and the other. Just two of the innumerable possibilities that inhabit people. Even in it.