In contrast to what most people think, Simone Biles, Naomi Osaka, and many other athletes, even the most successful ones, are human too. They go through ups and downs, and some struggle with being in the spotlight. Two-time Olympic Gold Medalist Chloe Kim joins in the conversation by opening up about her struggles with mental health during the 2018 Winter Olympics.
Take a look at Kim hitting a back-to-back 1080s in Women’s Halfpipe in the 2018 Winter Olympics:
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During the 2018 Pyeongchang Olympics, the 17-year-old made history by being the youngest woman ever to win a gold medal in snowboarding.
After-effect of the 2018 Olympics
The Korean-American said that she put immense pressure on herself to be perfect and meet the standards of social media after becoming a world-record breaker in 2018. She told TIME magazine that she even threw her gold medal in the trash (although she fished it out not long after) and found herself feeling extremely depressed at home, unintentionally hurting her family and the people she loved through her actions at that time.
The gold medalist said that she struggled to digest the overnight fame, thrown into situations where the spotlight was shone on her. She said that “suddenly, she was making the rounds of late-night shows, got a Barbie doll designed in her likeness and was shouted out by Frances McDormand at the Oscars.”
She ended up quitting snowboarding and went to Princeton for a year (2019-2020). She tried to escape her fame by going there so she could live a ‘normal’ life, trying to erase the title the world has engraved onto her.
She tweeted this in March of 2020, expressing her gratitude for what the school had taught her.
At the press conference after her win in Beijing Olympics
Chloe Kim said “It's unfair to be expected to be perfect - and I'm not perfect in any way - but I think after my last Olympics, I put that pressure on myself to be perfect at all times and that would cause a lot of issues at home. I would be really sad and depressed all the time when I was home and I was hurting the people I loved the most by doing that. So I think the biggest challenge for me now is just to be as open as possible because I hope that maybe one day a little girl can hear my story and be inspired to, you know, keep going, to never give up, to learn that it's okay to have a bad day, that you can move on and that you'll come out in a better place at the end of it all. Like, everyone goes through something, everyone's dealing with stuff and I think in my experience whenever someone opens up to me about what they're experiencing, it makes me feel much more at ease and makes me feel more comfortable and reminds myself that it's okay. Life isn't easy at all times and that's okay.”
Kim also started opening up about going to therapy during interviews and expressed how much therapy helped her. “Just being able to let those things out that you just tuck in your little secret part of your heart helps a lot. I feel much more at peace now.”
Kim also was a strong supporter of Simone Biles when she withdrew from the Tokyo Olympics 2020 finals. “Having that comfort, knowing that, ‘Hey, I’m doing something really dangerous, or I’m doing something that is hard on my body, if I mentally can’t do it, then I shouldn’t,‘” Kim told TIME. “It’s in my best interests. Showing the world that you have to put yourself first and give up something like an Olympic gold medal, that was very touching and inspirational.“ "I was really proud of Simone Biles and Naomi Osaka as well for prioritizing their mental health," Kim said. "I hope that people realize that as athletes and Olympians, we face a lot of pressure. It's important to slow down, take a step back, and validate your emotions. Respecting yourself is so important."