Friday, February 11, 2022

The Unbearable Pressure of Winning the Olympics (VIDEO)

It's not just the Olympics, of course. But as these games come only once every four years, the pressure to excel and take home medals is astronomical. Most of those competing are kids. I mean, Lindsey Jacobellis, now 36, probably would've retired years ago if she hadn't blown her near-victory run in 2006, 16 years ago, when she was just 19-years-old. (She finally won her gold medal. It's a good thing. Another wipe out in Beijing would have left a permanent scar on her psychiatric frame for the rest of her life.)

And now we have this poor woman Mikaela Shiffrin who, in Beijing, when the pressure was on, just couldn't cut it this one time --- and she'd been dominating her sport for years and has been called one of the world's greatest skiers of all time.

But she's utterly broken, emotionally drained and psychologically mauled, questioning her very life at this point. 

She can barely talk at the video here, her voice starts cracking with sobs, and all the idiot NBC interviewer can ask is, "What are you feeling?" What the fuck  d'you think she's feeling?!!. She said she's questioning the last 15 fucking of her life. My god, no wonder people were up in arms at NBC's merciless coverage of her wallowing in pain --- for a full 20 minutes --- at the side of the course, simply trying to comprehend it all. 

Oh, the agony of defeat. 

And at the Los Angeles Times, "Olympic athletes deal with expectations, which leads to crushing pressure":

BEIJING — The world’s most famous skier had kicked off her skis and dropped her poles. Sitting alone in the snow, she buried her head in her hands. Other racers zipped past as the women’s slalom event at the Beijing Olympics continued. But Mikaela Shiffrin, who had skidded out of control and missed a gate near the top of the course, did not move. She remained off to the side for 20 minutes.

“There’s a lot of disappointment over the last week,” she said. “There’s a lot of emotions.”

In what will be an enduring if wrenching moment from these Games, her anguish over failing to finish, much less medal, in the second consecutive event in a little over 48 hours highlighted the unrelenting pressure athletes face at a global competition that comes around once every four years.

For some, the Games have become a suffocating crucible that drains much of the joy from the sport they love.

Even before arriving in Beijing, the 26-year-old Shiffrin acknowledged the Olympics are often “very uncomfortable the entire time” because athletes “literally feel the expectations from the whole world around you.”

At the figure skating venue, an hour or so to the southeast, California-born Beverly Zhu — competing for China — endured similar heartbreak after falling twice during the women’s team competition. Jamie Anderson, the two-time slopestyle gold medalist, posted a raw message on Instagram after finishing an unexpected ninth.

“At the end of the day I just straight up couldn’t handle the pressure,” she wrote, “had an emotional breakdown the night before finals and my mental health and clarity just hasn’t been on par.”

Even Chloe Kim, who became the first woman to win consecutive halfpipe golds, acknowledged her mental health struggles, telling reporters: “It’s unfair to be expected to be perfect.”

Watching Olympians land a double cork 1620 jump, rocket down the side of a mountain at 90 mph or navigate 16 curves headfirst on a skeleton sled can obscure the reality that they can have ordinary struggles despite their extraordinary ability.

“Pressure can be an asset to people at times, bringing out their best,” said Edward Hirt, a professor of brain sciences and psychology at Indiana University. “Those moments are the ones that we think separate the greats from the rest of the pack. But we also know that those pressures can be debilitating and make you choke. I suspect the pressure mounts as people have been successful in the past.”

The Olympics are a unique stage in that athletes can feel the additional burden of representing their country while receiving more attention, if not scrutiny, than at any other time in their careers. They are hyped relentlessly in this made-for-television spectacle, and sometimes castigated when they do not perform as predicted.

These challenges are heightened in a time of pandemic, when athletes are kept in a bubble, separated from the support of family or friends. They must take daily coronavirus tests amid the lingering worry that a positive result — even a false positive — can knock them out of competition.

“Uncertainty creates a lot of pressure,” said Sian Beilock, a cognitive scientist who is president of Barnard College and author of the book “Choke,” which explores performing under pressure. “We, as normal people do the ‘what ifs,’ Olympians do that, too.”

Lindsey Jacobellis made a late mistake that cost her a gold medal during the snowboardcross race at the 2006 Torino Games that haunted her for years. She won the event Wednesday at age 36 to become the oldest U.S. woman to medal at the Winter Olympics. “Some days, I really don’t like it,” Jacobellis said of the pressure...