I’m a fan of the Olympics. I can remember watching it as a little girl with my family and being in awe of the athletes. The days of Dot Richardson, Lisa Fernandez, Michelle Smith, Michelle Kwan, Tara Lipinski, Nancy Kerrigan, Scott Hamilton, Apolo Ohno, Michael Phelps, Brandi Chastain’s shirt ripping winning goal, Mia Hamm, Lindsey Vonn, Kerri Walsh Jennings & Misti Mae-Treanor, Shawn Johnson, Shaun White. Man, was that a trip down memory lane…
I watch the Summer and Winter Olympics to this day, following all the popular, top pick athletes that are supposed to do big things in their event. And while the hype and overall buildup to the every 4 year games is nothing new, the magnitude and sheer invasive pressure being put on some these top names, certainly is. The coverage, multiple broadcasting platforms, and that wonderful thing we like to call social media, has the names, faces, and expectations plastered everywhere.
We saw it in Summer 2021 with Simone Biles. Admittingly, I was skeptical of her decision, wondering about how genuine and honest her explanation of needing to take care of her mental health and withdraw from competing truly was. Thinking this was a trained athlete that had been to the Olympics before, competed hundreds of times, and was one of the most decorated and sought after gymnast of our times. I can remember feeling disappointed that an athlete of that caliber would bow out completely because she didn’t feel she could get past the mental state she was in.
If anything Simone’s decision brought the situation to light, and certainly caught my attention.
Last night I watched the hype being built up around Mikaela Shiffrin prior to her giant slalom run. I had also seen quite a few interviews, and hype commercials highlighting her sponsors in the months prior. She was clearly the chosen athlete to pick-on, errr, “highlight” for these 2022 Beijing Winter Games. Every opportunity that broadcasters and reporters could bring her up and mention the expectations people had of her preforming well was mentioned. Side stories about her personal life, about the recent tragic loss of her father, and even about her dating life were in my opinion unprompted and uncalled for. It's that relatable American story that makes her more human-like and likable, but in my opinion is invasive and the beginning of her unraveling. Add in the posts, comments, links, videos, tweets, shares, follows, we were witnessing Shiffrin’s personal recipe for disaster. Leading up to her run the cameras were following her, filming her stretching, visualizing, trying to gather herself enough to compete. I don’t care who you are, or how good of an athlete you are, that would be nerve-wrecking and would have an effect on how you approach competition and ultimately compete.
Media is destroying the very athletes they want us to cheer on. They want us to know these athletes inside and out, then will use any means necessary to extend their dark tentacles into any sense of normalcy, routine, and un-judged nook of confidence these athletes have left.
The top seems glamorous, everyone wants the likes, to be hashtagged, talked about the most, followed the most, but when you are lifted so high and you have so much to lose, you have so far to fall, the uncanny buckling at the pressure is a tall tale sign, we are destroying the very athletes we are choosing to represent our country.
There is no one to prove wrong because you’re already the expected, the required winner.