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The Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games begin on July 23, 2021. The occasion to talk about a little-known but fundamental aspect: the mental health of high-performance athletes. The recent withdrawal of tennis player Naomi Osaka from the Rolland Garros tournament, who confessed to suffering from depression and anxiety, has highlighted the importance of psychological well-being. RFI spoke with a sports psychologist about this.

Imagine for a moment being Michael Phelps about to jump into the water. OR Usain Bolt getting ready for his 100 meter race. Or more recent athletes like American gymnast Simone Biles when executing his double somersault with triple twist. What goes through their heads? How do they handle stress? What happens if they don’t achieve their goals?

The images of these athletes doing extraordinary feats fill us all with emotion.

But the other side of the coin is the deep emotional charge that these high-level athletes have to handle.

Not long ago, the world number two tennis player, the Japanese Naomi Osaka, he confessed to having bouts of depression and waves of anxiety before the press. She had announced in advance that she did not want to participate in the press conferences of the Rolland Garros tournament. After a tug of war between the tournament organizers and the tennis player, Osaka decided to retire of the tournament to preserve his sanity.

His resounding retirement from this important French tournament has highlighted the question of mental health in high performance athletes.

For the psychologist Diego Segura, sports psychologist and former professional soccer player in Spain, the decision of the Japanese tennis player is understandable and explains the psychological pressure suffered by high-performance athletes. Listen to the radio program here:


In addition to Naomi Osaka, other figures from the sports elite have raised their voices in favor of psychological well-being, such as swimmer Michael Phelps or the american football player Brandon Marshall.

On a rostrum NBA professional basketball player Kevin Love He tells how, right off the bat, he suffered a panic attack during a game that forced him to retire and also describes his long recovery process.

The recent fact that Naomi Osaka has quit a tournament of Grand Slam by anxiety it reflects that something is wrong in the world of sports.

It is important not only to raise awareness about the mental health of high-performance athletes, but also the handling of the media and especially social networks. The media exposure and the weight of the networks is an additional stress to which high-level athletes are subjected, especially the best known.

Interviewed: Diego Segura Ramirez, a sports psychologist based in Seville, Spain.

On the same topic:

Tokyo2020, the Olympics of the pandemic

Naomi Osaka’s retirement: ‘The psychological support of athletes should be normalized’