‘We’re just playing a sport’: US Olympic athletes on mental health challenges

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TOKYO (AP) — Lives are more important than medals, US triathlon athlete Morgan Pearson said after his team won silver Saturday in Tokyo.

The mixed triathlon event – swimming, cycling and running – has just made its debut at the Olympics and the US team came just a few seconds behind Britain. France finished with bronze.

But with the focus on the mental health of athletes, the American team reflected on how they cope with the pressure of competing at the top level of sport, highlighting the importance of addressing mental health issues.

“It’s important to remember that at the end of the day we’re just playing a sport, doing a sport, and our lives are more valuable than just the medals,” Pearson said in the press conference following the medals’ ceremony.

Katie Zafares said she started talking to a psychologist after taking part in the Rio Olympics, and it’s now part of her routine.

Kevin McDowell said the pandemic has brought him closer to his parents and family, and now he opens up and talks to them about his feelings instead of bottling “everything in”, and reach out for help when he already was “completely broken or down.”

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