How Shaun White, Chloe Kim and More Olympic Athletes Are Prioritizing Their Mental Health in Beijing

After the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, more athletes are sharing the ways they take care of themselves when preparing to compete. Read their tips here.

By Cydney Contreras Feb 05, 2022 5:00 PMTags
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Olympic athletes may be the strongest and fastest people in the world, but there's more to health than meets the eye.

The 2020 Tokyo Games brought mental health to the forefront as numerous athletes chose to prioritize their well-being over competing. Gold medalist Simone Biles became one of those Olympians when she decided to sit out the women's gymnastics team finals. At the time, she admitted, "I truly do feel like I have the weight of the world on my shoulders at times."

Her decision sparked a discussion about the pressure athletes face when competing on a global stage.

In July 2020, Bode Miller spoke to E! News about the dark side of sports, saying, "Everything is focused on the physical side and it leaves [competitors] feeling very exposed on the emotional and mental state."

And with the coronavirus pandemic still raging on, many athletes are traveling to Beijing without their usual support system because of COVID-19 protocols. 

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So, athletes are taking extra steps to make sure they're prioritizing their mental health heading into the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics. Continue scrolling to learn how they're achieving balance.

Gus Kenworthy / Freestyle Skiing

Though former U.S. team member Gus will represent the U.K. at the Beijing Olympics, his methods for taking care of his mental health remain the same. He recently wrote that he finds comfort in friends, specifically Adam Rippon, who is one of the first openly gay Olympians. "Adam being so boldly himself in turn gave me the permission to be more myself," he wrote in an open letter. "I feel like I came into my own when I came out. Until that point I had kept my cards so close to my chest that I had really stifled my sense of humor and a lot of the things that make me, me."

He continued, "Even though I was now being myself, I found myself falling into old tendencies and seeing Adam be so blatantly, well . . . Adam, gave me permission to do the same. To really let my guard down. Even though I didn't win a medal in 2018, I felt proud showcasing my authentic self to the world."

Bode Miller / Alpine Ski Racing

In HBO Sports' The Weight of Gold, the Olympian revealed the stress athletes experience while preparing for the competition. He said that he participated in the doc in hopes of destigmatizing the process of seeking help. "There are things that need to change and there are ways of changing it. I don't think it's impossible," Bode previously told E! News. "I just think we're in a renaissance right now for sports where I think there's going to be a lot of reality checks."

Chloe Kim / Snowboarding

Like other Olympians, the snowboarder has felt pressure to be perfect all the time. But she's learning that it doesn't have to be that way. "I realized I need to take better care of myself, and if I don't want to do something, I can't force myself to do it," she said. "It was very empowering for me, feeling like I finally had more control over my life. Right now, I'm in a much better place."

Serena Williams / Tennis

In November, Serena told E! News that the best thing for her mental health is to not stretch herself too thin, a feat that can be difficult for the multi-hyphenate star. "Work-life balance is important and boundaries are important," she shared. "And I've been able to install those boundaries and work-life balance. Not well. But I'm still trying. I'm definitely getting more balance than I used to be."

And it never hurts to indulge in a little retail therapy too. "I love to splurge on jewelry," Serena shared. "I love to accessorize outfits with earrings, watches, necklaces and bracelets, but also jewelry can hold sentimental value. I have different pieces that remind me of special moments or help me find strength when I need it."

Simone Biles / Gymnastics

The gymnast learned the hard way that it's better to process your emotions in the moment, rather than burying them. In October, she reflected on the Olympics, as well as her abuse at the hands of Larry Nassar, saying, "My body and my mind allowed me to suppress all of that stuff for so many years, for as long as it could take, and as soon as we stepped on to the Olympic scene, it just decided it couldn't do it anymore and it cracked and that's what happens and that's why taking care of your mental well-being and mental health is so important so that something like that doesn't happen."

Michael Phelps / Swim

The renowned swimmer and Weight of Gold executive producer has been incredibly candid about seeking therapy for depression following his retirement. During the Tokyo Games, he said his biggest piece of advice to athletes is to share how they're feeling, saying, "We're human beings. Nobody is perfect. So yes, it is okay to not be okay."

Shaun White / Snowboarding

With a career as long as his, Shaun has learned that it's more important to enjoy yourself than to win. "Everything at this point is just appreciating," he recently told E! News. "I never really took the time to stop and be proud of all the stuff I've accomplished thus far, but at this point in my career, it's kind of hard not to reflect on everything I've done and been through and be proud of that and be proud to be in a sport for this long."

Alexa Knierim & Brandon Frazier / Figure Skating

The figure skating pair are all about having a routine and staying in tip-top shape. Brandon said, "We have our system, lots of stretching, lots of recovery, hydration. We take our time to get our bodies going, it's a part of out whole process."

Alexa added that in addition to their usual methods, they work with a sports psychologist, "We communicate with each other on any concerns or insecurities," she shared, "and we have a lot of hobbies and distractions outside of training to help us stay calm and focused."

Maame Biney / Short Track Speed Skating

The short track speed skating team is finding comfort in team-building, according to Maame. She told E! News, "We are staying the whole time, I know we're going to be watching some movies together."

Rosie Brennan / Cross-Country Skiing

This Salt Lake City native shared that her approach to mental health is all about finding inner peace: "Mindfulness, any sort of relaxation techniques, exercising and trying to feel centered."

Jamie Anderson / Slopestyle

For the snowboarder, it's all about the simple pleasures in life. "I love my doTERRA essential oils; I bring my diffuser with me," she shared. "I bring hot chocolate and things like that, a lot of things that help you take care of yourself. Taking things one day at a time. Trying to nurture, keep your mind healthy and your spirit happy and we're all good!"

Chris Plys / Curling

Mental health comes in all shapes and forms for the American athletes. According to the Minnesota native, "We have a great sports psychologist and we've been doing a lot of work with her. We have a great support system at home, family, friends. We have been blessed to have a ton of people looking out for us an our mental well-being. It's certainly helped with all that we've had going on."

Katie Uhlaender / Skeleton Racing

For the skeleton racer, her mental health routine is simple. She told E! News that she stays relaxed "by keeping the people that love me close in my mind."

Vicky Persinger / Curling

"We have had a long road to get here, and we've been through a lot of events, even in the past few months," the 29-year-old competitor shared, noting that she and her teammates try not to put too much pressure on themselves. "We're taking it one game at a time and playing like we normally would outside of the Olympics."