Many top Indian medal hopefuls succumbed to the pressure of participating in such a big-ticket tournament.

We have witnessed the best Indian performance at the Tokyo Olympics. The country has won a total of seven Olympic medals. In general, the Olympics is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for several athletes to make their country proud. However, the expectation and pressure to perform on the grandest stage requires a lot of mental strength and conditioning. It is extremely challenging to overcome all challenges and earn a medal for the country.

From Deepika Kumari to Saurabh Chaudhary, there are too many examples of athletes who have struggled to cope with the pressure of the Olympics. Despite being at the peak of their career, they have faltered at the final stage of the mega event. The major reason being a lack of mental conditioning.

At a high-pressure event like the Olympics, the mental aspect of an athlete plays an extremely crucial part. With an extraordinary 15 shooters, India had sent their largest shooting contingent at the Tokyo Olympics. However, all of them failed to live up to the expectations and bring back a medal for the country.

Manu Bhaker, Saurabh Chaudhary and Elavenil Valarivan among others were expected to fetch multiple medals for the country. However, barring Chaudhary, no one even reached the final stages of their categories.

The major reason being that there was no high-performance coach to assist the shooters. A high-performance coach trains the athletes to perform under pressure conditions.

However, over a few years, several athletes have been taking keen care of their mental conditioning. India’s sole weightlifter at the Tokyo Olympics, Mirabai Chanu earned a silver medal for the country. She battled depression and injuries with the help of her psychologist, to come back stronger after facing disappointment at the Rio 2016 Olympics.

Importance of mental conditioning

The importance of Sports Psychologists on athletes’ performance has increased rapidly over the years. The recent meditation app, backed by Pullela Gopichand, Dhyana for athletes to prepare for the Olympics is an example of developing mental conditioning in the sports industry. It was an official mediation partner for Indian Olympic Association (IOA) for the Tokyo Olympics.

Therefore, along with physical fitness, mental well-being is equally important for the athletes to surmount pressure at the highest level. Some of the most prominent sporting personalities in the world like Sachin Tendulkar, Naomi Osaka have been vocal about their mental health issues.

The uncertain COVID-19 enforced lockdown proved to be mental anguish for all the athletes to qualify and compete for the Olympics. In addition, the fact that the Olympics comes once every four years, adds an increased amount of pressure. Therefore, it is important and encouraging for athletes to have sports physiatrists included in their coaching staff.

Among many initiatives, the Abhinav Bindra Foundation has been working selflessly to raise mental health awareness in sports. The foundation has launched different projects in many states through their Athlete Mental Wellness program to raise mental health awareness in athletes as well as the coaching staff.

After Abhinav Bindra, India finally got its second Olympic gold medal, courtesy the golden hand of Neeraj Chopra. The 23-year-old won a gold in men’s javelin throw with a distance of 87.58m to become the first track and field athlete to win an Olympic medal. Vividly, Neeraj is trained and managed by JSW sports. They not only take care of their athlete’s physical health but have also incorporated psychologists into their system. The result of this we can clearly see in the way Neeraj Chopra performed under such heavy pressure conditions to give out his best.

Goals for the 2024 Paris Olympics

While the curtains have closed for the Tokyo Olympics, all athletes will now have their eyes set for the 2024 Paris Olympics. The Tokyo Olympics witnessed the best Indian performance in the history of the Olympics. One thing to be observed was that though many of the athletes were in their best form, they failed to perform their best under pressure conditions in Tokyo. Therefore, the Indian sports system needs to make a major development in terms of mental health awareness for sportspersons.

Olympic success is a dream for many Indian athletes. Importantly, mental conditioning is a must for the athletes who returned empty-handed post-Tokyo Olympics. This will give them the required confidence and energy to focus on their performance at the next version of the Olympics. Therefore, instead of ignoring the athletes who did not live up to the expectations, it is important to give them the right mental conditioning to learn from their mistakes and look forward.

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