‘High Expectations’ dampens India’s medal haul

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  • Coaches yet to comprehend the importance of sports psychologists.
  • Gracenote India predicted 19 medals for India in the Olympics, But India won only 7.
  • Indian athletes lack pressure handling ability.
  • Even Coaches and Referees come under severe pressure while handling athletes.

India is indeed starving for medals in the Olympics. Owing to it, whenever such a gargantuan event takes place, the athletes who will be participating in it are forced to carry a heavy burden of expectation on their shoulders. And most of the time, we see them struggling to rise to the level of the country’s expectations. And without a strong entourage to back them till the end of the game, psychologists confirm that most of them succumb to the pressure soon and lose out even before they could use their full potential.

Though India has potential athletes, the intense pressure prevents them from winning international events. They lack the pressure handling ability, says Bangalore based Viswanath M N, Author and Sports Psychologist.

During the Tokyo Olympics 2020, an important prediction was made by Gracenote, a leading entertainment data and technology company and provider of statistical data for major tournaments across sports that India will score 19 medals in the Olympics, out of which four will be gold and India will finish by holding the 18th position on the medals table. It was Gracenote’s second prediction as it had already predicted in April that India would finish with 17 medals but later updated it with chances of two more medals. 

But India could win only 7 medals in the Olympics.

Besides, we treat the Olympics as a mega event and give predominant importance to it more than any other country. Without a strong team to back them up, high expectation leads to a fear of failure, performance anxiety, depression, overtraining syndrome and soon they will be engulfed with immense pressure leading to poor performance on the ground.

Mirabai Chanu, the silver medalist from India at Tokyo Olympics admitted that she was nervous during her first Olympics and after which she approached a psychologist and saw a difference in her performance. 

Even before the Tokyo Olympics discussions on the mental fitness of athletes started doing rounds when World No 2 Tennis player Naomi Osaka withdrew from Wimbledon citing anxiety and depression. In no time, Simone Biles, the American gymnast also withdrew from the Tokyo Olympics 2020 citing the same reason.

The six-time Olympic medalist quoted on Instagram ‘I truly feel like I have the weight of the world on my shoulders at times.’ Her statement reveals the expectations of the world were too much to handle.

Viswanath points out that athletes are not robots or super humans. They feel stressed and depressed whenever they go through hard times. During such circumstances, they need someone to listen to their problems. Besides, coaches should understand how a sports psychologist can truly help an athlete during such times.

“Some coaches believe that they can even handle the mental health of the athletes. But that’s not possible. It’s a fact that they cannot provide what a trained hand can do and they should be ready to accept the reality. Equal space should be given to the sports performance coaches so that they could be there on the ground to handle the athletes.”

On the performance of the Indian shooting team in the Tokyo Olympics 2020, Indian shooter Joydeep Karmakar, who represented India at the 2011 London Olympics said the Indian shooting team needs a high-performance coach. 

“Indian shooting needs a proper high-performance coach. The high-performance coach will actually teach the shooters how to handle pressure. It is not about shooting or any other sports, it is all about the mind at the Olympics,” the veteran rifle shooter told the Times of India.

Viswanath pointed out that sometimes sudden pressure might arise in athletes during events like the Olympics while they see huge stadiums or a large number of people. Lack of fans can also put athletes under pressure just like the case of American Skateboarder Nyjah Huston in the Tokyo Olympics. 

He said that his performance went down due to the lack of crowd and high temperature in Tokyo. To avoid such sudden pressures coaches must make athletes aware of the situation there, before any international events.

The psychologist also points out that former Olympians should play a great role in giving awareness on how to manage such sudden pressures or how they tackled or failed to tackle as they have prior experience.

Apart from it, coaches and referees are also prone to immense tension or pressure while dealing with elite sportspeople in world stadiums. It will be beneficial if they too seek the help of sports psychologists. They could help them to come back to their normal state of mind.

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