The Tokyo Olympics have become the most unusual in recent sports history. Not only because of the many limitations by the pandemic, but also because of the discussions it has caused. World-famous athletes and national heroes of the world's most powerful countries have begun to admit that they are just human, and they are tired. Tired of pressure, of guilt after loss, of carrying the burden of national pride and secret expectations of the fans.
An American gymnast, a four-time Olympic champion Simone Biles refused to perform in the team finals, putting her mental health above the medals. And she was supported. By both athletes and spectators.
Ukrainian athletes brought 19 medals from Tokyo, which people called a big success for the national team. Among them -- one gold medal, which no one had hoped for. However, there were also a few golds which Ukrainians didn't win. In this project, Ukrainian athletes share why professional sports, especially during these Games, have become a serious psychological test and how the national love and overexpectations can break you.
It was really hard to be seriously injured three weeks before the Olympics. The most difficult thing is to be absolutely in limbo! I tried not to tell anyone about what happened, so it was difficult to hear talks like: "Well, champion, we believe in you, you need to take your gold!", and at the same time I was lying in bed, with ice on my injured shoulder. Moreover, I needed this medal like air, and there were no excuses for a failure due to injury. I’d had been torn to the little pieces in the media, I understood what people would say: the deputy that got into the sport, was driven by pull, and didn’t give another athlete the opportunity to prove himself. And only my coach's faith allowed me to make my dream come true.
It was ten times more difficult than at the previous Olympics, if not more. It was like the 2018 World Cup, when I lost in the 1/32. I overthought this: I have to win, I have to! Did I disappoint myself? Yes. Do I feel weak? Yes. Is there anyone else to blame? No.
“You must bring a GOLD medal!” - I've heard that more than a dozen of times. But did I really want this? I had been always thinking that I need to win the Olympics, because everyone wanted that. Everyone said that I already had as many medals as I wanted, and they had decide for me that I only needed a gold medal. Now I want to live my life without a saber. I want to wake up and not to think about how many days are left before the Olympics. I'm tired.
I was in the Olympic Village two days after winning the medal. During those two days, my mood was changing too often. There I didn’t realize this medal was important to me. I could just walk down the street and cry because I remembered that I made some mistakes during the competitions and I couldn’t accomplish my dream.
In fact, it was very difficult. I was very upset when I lost the semifinal. Thoughts were extremely different. Desperately, I said that now I would lose the bronze too, I would be in fourth.
Silver and Bronze
I dedicated the first medal to my mom. Only thanks to her I had a dream to become an Olympic champion. She instilled in me great faith in myself, motivated me to never give up. We overcame all difficulties together. She saw how difficult it was for me, but always found the right words of support.
Of course, The Olympic Games are very impressive and full of emotions. Peak of tension, no one can avoid the jitters. Almost everyone I know, whom I competed there with, used the services of sports psychologists. It’s too difficult to cope with this stress on one's own.
A lot of people didn’t believe that I’d go to the Olympics and reach the final there at the age of 22. However, I think I train the most [comparing to my teammates] and I believe in myself. And my family believed too. I couldn't let them down.
You can beat your opponent dozens of times, but lose to them at the Olympics. Or vice versa. There are only six minutes your life depends on.
To be honest, literally on the second day after the Olympics, when the euphoria had passed, I was so devastated. I woke up and didn't want to eat or walk, nothing. I just wanted to lie down and not move. It is unusual to wake up in the morning and not think that you have a competition soon.