Andrea Jaeger discusses how the Olympics and professional sports are showing greater mental health awareness.
When Simone Biles withdrew from the Olympic competition last week, she made a resounding statement. The champion elected to prioritize mental and emotional health over medals and trophies.
In a detailed Instagram post, the gymnast said her “mind and body are simply not in sync.” In a sport where silence, conformity, and obedience have long been considered important, Simon Biles demonstrated something often lacking in previous generations of athletes. She exhibited a voice. She put her own needs first. In her statement, the star reinforced her own humanity, stressing the need to step back to protect her own well-being “rather than just go out there and do what the world wants us to do.”
Her message was simple and bold. And it resonated with many. Since her announcement, she has received overwhelming support from her teammates and other athletes across the world. Simone Biles, however brave, is not alone. She is the latest in a series of high-profile athletes using their platforms to evoke cultural change. There’s a new generation of female competitors finding their own voice over racial, social, and political issues.
Andrea Jaeger says that mental health has become a key issue that can no longer be ignored or buried. Several months ago, Naomi Osaka also made headlines after abruptly withdrawing from the French Open. The tennis superstar had wanted to continue playing but faced overwhelming pressures over the mandatory, post-match press conferences. She described “long bouts of depression” and “huge waves of anxiety” that came with being interviewed. After the situation escalated and included a fine, the No. 2-ranked player in the world felt it was better to not even participate. Like Simon Biles, her hard-line stance further entrenched the importance of self-care and personal health.
Although the spotlight has never been brighter, the sentiment behind these comments has been building for decades. Dating back to the 1980s, retired tennis legend Andrea Jaeger made a profound commitment to serving a larger purpose. The superstar turned pro at the age of 14 and eventually rose to the No. 2 ranking in the world. Despite being a Wimbledon finalist and a French Open mixed doubles championship, Andrea Jaeger was unfulfilled. Like the younger stars today, she has dedicated her voice and efforts to social service programs and mental health awareness across the globe.
After removing herself from the all-around competition and three individual events, Simone Biles has elected to perform in the balance beam finals. Much like the rest of the world, Andrea Jaeger will be watching and sending continued support.