Saturday, Jun 03, 2023

Virat Kohli To Simone Biles – Athletes Who Battled Mental Health Issues 

Virat Kohli To Simone Biles – Athletes Who Battled Mental Health Issues 

Such are the demands on a sportsperson that no one is immune to debilitating stress.

Virat Kohli returned to form during the Asia Cup 2022 after a one-month vacation with family.
Virat Kohli returned to form during the Asia Cup 2022 after a one-month vacation with family. AP

From the outside, an athlete’s life may look fancy, with glamour, money, fame and what not. Little do we know what struggles they go through mentally every day in order to reach the top of their profession. (More Cricket News)

Here are some of the sports world’s biggest icons who battled mental health issues. 

Virat Kohli (Cricket) 

Playing non-stop cricket for over a decade, captaining the Indian side across formats for seven years – Virat Kohli knew he had to give it a break at some point of time. Coming from a one-month break before the Asia Cup 2022, he opened up on his mental health struggles and admitted he was “trying to fake his intensity even though his body was telling him to stop”. 

“For the first time in 10 years, I didn’t touch my bat for a month. I came to the realisation that I was trying to fake my intensity a bit recently. I was convincing myself that no, you had the intensity. But your body is telling you to stop,” Kohli was quoted as saying. 

“I was experiencing that I'm not excited to train, I wasn't excited to practice, and that really disturbed me because this is not who I am, and I literally needed to step away from that environment,” he added. 

A month-long vacation with his family rejuvenated Kohli. He returned with a bang, scoring his maiden T20I century during the Asia Cup 2022 match against Afghanistan – his first ton in three years and 71st overall. 

Michael Phelps (Swimming) 

Even the most decorated Olympian in swimming history had to go through a severe mental health crisis. Owner of 28 Olympic medals, including 23 gold, Phelps revealed he suffered from anxiety and depression during the peak years of his career. 

“I struggled with anxiety and depression and questioned whether or not I wanted to be alive anymore. It was when I hit this low that I decided to reach out and ask for the help of a licensed therapist. This decision ultimately helped save my life. You don’t have to wait for things,” Phelps tweeted. 

Depression hit Phelps for the first time post the 2004 Athens Olympics. As the American recovered from it while preparing for the 2008 Olympics, another period of depression hit him following the success at Beijing Games. From there on, Phelps said, it continued to come in waves before he consulted a therapist. 

Ben Stokes (Cricket) 

Kohli’s English counterpart suffered from a series of panic attacks following the loss of his father, and he took an indefinite break from cricket in July 2021. The all-rounder said that he felt deep bitterness towards the sport due to the lack of support from the England hierarchy. 

Stokes said he pondered whether he was “playing for the wrong people”, as the southpaw couldn’t visit his ailing father, who died in 2022 due to brain cancer. In an Amazon documentary, Stokes, who retired from ODIs, revealed that he was still taking anxiety medication even after returning from the break.   

“But it’s not done just because I’m back playing. I still speak to the doc, not as regularly, and I’m still taking medication every day. It's an ongoing process,” said Stokes, England’s 2019 World Cup-winning hero. 

Naomi Osaka (Tennis) 

When the then world No.2 withdrew from the 2021 French Open citing mental health issues, it surprised the tennis world. She was just 23, too young to be weary of her sport or the world.  

Osaka revealed that he has been suffering from long bouts of depression since the US Open in 2018 and had been having a hard time coping with it. The Japanese also revealed in a recent interview that she had been writing journals to keep her thoughts in order. 

Simone Biles (Gymnastics)

Just 25, Simone Biles has become the most decorated gymnast of all time with seven Olympic medals, including four gold. Amidst all the glory, spotlight and shiny medals, lay a human being that had fought her own struggles, and which came to the fore during the Tokyo Olympics last year.   

Biles withdrew from the all-around individual competition and the women’s team finals in Tokyo, saying she was struggling mentally, and that posed a risk at that time to her physical safety. “For anyone saying I quit. I didn’t quit, my mind & body are simply not in sync,” Biles wrote in an Instagram post. 

Biles’ withdrawal came as a big shock for the entire United States, but she knew what she needed to do at that moment for herself – a decision that was applauded by many. She might have not won a gold in Tokyo, but made a statement by “choosing herself” over a medal.  


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