Dressel, Phelps Weigh-in On Gymnast Simone Biles, Athletes’ Mental Health

TOKYO, Japan, August 9, 2021–Olympic swimmers Michael Phelps and Caeleb Dressel understood what gymnast Simone Biles was going through during the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

The greatest gymnast of all times withdrew from most of her gymnastics events after being heavily favored. She shared with the world that she was experiencing the twisties. Her mind and body were not in sync so she decided to put her mental and physical health ahead of winning.

Biles told reporters, “Whenever you get in a high-stress situation, you kind of freak out. I have to focus on my mental health and not jeopardize my health and well-being. We have to protect our body and our mind. It just sucks when you’re fighting with your own head.”

Dressel, who won five gold medals in Tokyo, came to Biles’ defense during an NBC interview.

“Every individual is different,” Dressel said. “That’s why I’m not going to speak on anyone else’s behalf. That’s why I’m okay with the call that Simone did.”

Like many others that offered Biles support, Dressel believes that the only one that knows what’s best for her is Biles.

“No one else’s opinion matters because they’re not the one in her situation,” Dressel said. “She’s literally the best to ever do it, and everyone wants to chime in. Just leave her alone.”

Dressel shared his own experience with stress during the Olympics. He said that at times, the experience could be “too much.”

“I’ve had a couple breakdowns. It does pile up,” Dressel said. Despite the stress, he added that the pressure was “worth it.”

Part of the reason he was able to handle the emotional toll of the Games is that he had a shoulder to lean on in Phelps, winner of eight gold medals and now retired.

“I texted [Phelps] more than my wife at these Games,” Dressel said. “I really leaned on him. And why would I not?”

Phelps, Dressel and other athletes are pleased that the 2020 Tokyo Olympics will be remembered for the spotlight on mental health and how it will help young up-and-coming athletes as well as elite athletes.

Phelps said he identified with the monumental pressure and mental strain on Biles and other athletes.

Phelps said Biles’ story “broke my heart” and that he hopes it will serve as a springboard for more public conversations that can de-stigmatize mental health and mental well-being.

“I hope this is an eye-opening experience, I really do,” Phelps said. “I hope this is an opportunity for us to jump on board, and to even blow this mental health thing even more wide open. It is so much bigger than we can ever imagine.”

Phelps has been open about his own mental health struggles and battle with depression in the past, and said Biles’ withdrawal and decision to prioritize her health is a teachable moment.

“It’s so important, especially to teach kids at a young age, to take control of their physical and mental health,” Phelps said. “You guys hear me talk about that so much, if we’re not taking care of both, how are we ever expecting to be 100 percent?”

Phelps founded the Michael Phelps Foundation, which promotes swimming along with a healthy lifestyle for youngsters. He believes his public appearances and talking about his struggles with depression are helping others.

Phelps shares his mental health story and empowering benefits of therapy in collaboration with Talkspace, a company in online therapy.

“Mental health over the last 18 months is something people are talking about,” Phelps said. “We’re human beings. Nobody is perfect. So yes, it is OK not to be OK.”

The International Olympic Committee developed the Athlete365 website which surveyed more than 4,000 athletes in early 2020. The results led the IOC to shift its tone from sports performance and results to mental health and uplifting the athlete’s voices.

Content was created for various social media platforms to feature current Olympians championing mental heath causes. And the Olympic State of Mind series on Olympics.com shares compilations of mental health stories and podcasts.

“Are we doing enough? I hope so. I think so,” IOC spokesman Mark Adams said. “But like everyone in the world, we are doing more on this issue.”

Sharon Robb can be reached at sha11cats@aol.com

100-Day Countdown To Tokyo Summer Olympics Begins Wednesday

By Sharon Robb
TOKYO, Japan, April 13, 2021—The 100-day countdown for the long-awaited, much-anticipated 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympic Games begins Wednesday.

The 32nd edition of the Summer Olympics were delayed from 2020 to 2021 despite growing worry over the pandemic. A cloud of uncertainty still hangs over the Olympics after a number of Japanese regions have reported a spike in coronavirus cases since the public health emergency was lifted on March 22.

In Tokyo and five other regions authorities have limited the number of spectators in sporting venues to a maximum of 5,000 and reduced the opening hours of bars and restaurants. Several Olympic test events have been postponed until early May and late June or cancelled.

Officials have gone ahead planning for the Games this summer despite objections from many fans, media and Japanese citizens.

The Olympics are scheduled to begin July 23 with the Opening Ceremony and last until Aug. 8.

On Tuesday the Olympic torch relay ran through a mostly empty Osaka City Park. Officials re-routed the relay off city streets and barred the public.

The torch relay began three weeks ago in northeastern Japan, attempting to navigate around the pandemic with a total of 10,000 runners across the country and ending at the opening ceremony.

After last year’s postponement, organizers talked of cancelling the relay to save money. But it was never really considered because of the IOC’s largest sponsors including Coca-Cola and Toyota.

The top sponsors paid the International Olympic Committee $1 billion in the last full Olympic cycle (2013-2016). That number is expected to double when the next cycle is completed with the postponed Tokyo Games.

According to a recent Kyodo News poll, 72 percent of Japanese want the Games cancelled or postponed because of the ongoing pandemic and country’s slow vaccine rollout. In a recent Wall Street Journal story, only one percent of Japan’s population has been vaccinated against COVID-19.

Olympic organizers have already taken unprecedented measures including not allowing fans to travel to Japan to watch the Games.

Still, the Olympics and Paralympics are expected to attract 15,400 athletes and thousands of judges, officials, judges, coaches and media even though numbers are expected to be scaled back.

Officials released a 33-page playbook detailing the health and safety protocols that will be in place. There are many guidelines in place for athletes, including tracking, tests and mask mandates. Fans will not be allowed to cheer or sing loudly because of the airborne virus, but are allowed to clap.

Officials have asked that athletes get vaccinated before participating, but say they will not require a vaccination before attending.

South Florida Aquatic Club’s four-time Jamaican Olympian Alia Atkinson, 31, has already qualified for her fifth Olympics in her signature event, 100-meter breaststroke. She will be accompanied by her longtime coach, SOFLO CEO and head coach Chris Anderson, who will also coach the Jamaican swim contingent which features Sarasota resident and Gator Swim Club’s Keanan Dols.

Dols, 22, recently surpassed the “B” qualifying standard of 2:03.26 and set a new national record of 2:02.15 in the men’s 200-meter individual medley at the Pro Swim Series in Mission Viejo, California. In addition to outpacing the Olympic “B” standard, Dols broke his previous national record of 2:03.74 that he set at the International Swim Coaches Association (ISCA) Senior Cup in St. Petersburg on March 24. His time of 2:02.15 ranks as the sixth-fastest time in the event from the Carifta region.


Aussies Adjusting Body Time Clocks
When Australia’s top swimmers compete in their national championships that begin on Wednesday, the meet will look just like the Olympic format. The meet begins at night with heats in eight disciplines, followed by finals on Thursday morning. The meet ends with finals on Sunday morning. The swimmers are learning to adjust their routines and body clocks looking ahead to the Olympics.

The morning-final, evening-heat pattern is being used in Tokyo. The distinctive format is a demand of American broadcaster NBC, which wants blockbuster medal races scheduled for prime time in the United States (the same approach was taken for the 2008 Olympics in Beijing).

Aussie officials said the format is crucial. The rest of the world is doing the same format in various sports preparing for the time changes. The swim race times posted at this week’s meet will factor into team selection for the Aussies. The country’s Olympic trials are still scheduled for June in Adelaide unless the pandemic plays a role.

Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups Anyone? Yes Please

The perennial chocolate and peanut butter powerhouse is partnering with three of the greatest U.S. Olympic athletes, Team USA and swimming: Michael Phelps, Katie Ledecky and Caeleb Dressel.

Phelps, Ledecky and Dressel are joining forces to support Big Orange and form the Ultimate Team Reese’s.

Starting with Phelps, a 23-time U.S. Olympic gold medalist and Reese’s lover, will be the face of the Reese’s brand this summer appearing in a new ad campaign highlighting the newest member of the Reese’s family, Reese’s Ultimate Lovers Cup, a new peanut buttery candy version of Peanut Butter Cups without the chocolate.

“As America’s number one chocolate brand, we couldn’t settle for anything other than the best and that’s exactly why we’ve partnered with these legendary U.S. Olympians,” said Margo McIlvaine, Reese’s Brand Manager. “These three know exactly what it takes to be the ultimate, and we welcome them to the Ultimate Team Reese’s.”

Sharon Robb can be reached at sha11cats@aol.com