From Virat Kohli to Simone Biles: Sports icons who battled with mental health issues

Written By: Amartya Sharma

We always look up to sporting stars on the field to perform their best and bring glory to their respective countries. However, we don't know their battles, their bouts with mental health issues, fitness, and other challenges. Here are some of the icons of the sporting world, who strongly stood up to mental health issues:

Naomi Osaka

Naomi Osaka, the four-time Grand Slam champion, withdrew from the French Open, citing mental health issues.

The Japanese player had initially said she would not attend the tournament's mandatory post-match press conferences, which she said put undue pressure on players.

The 23-year-old world No. 2 later announced she would not compete at all and revealed she had been suffering from bouts of depression for several years, leading to an outpouring of support.

(Photograph:AFP)

Ben Stokes

Cricketer Ben Stokes has taken an "indefinite break" from all forms of cricket with immediate effect to "prioritise his mental wellbeing" and to rest his left index finger.

Managing director of England men's cricket, Ashley Giles, said: "Our primary focus has always been and will continue to be the mental health and welfare of all of our people. The demands on our athletes to prepare and play elite sport are relentless in a typical environment, but the ongoing pandemic has acutely compounded this."

"Ben has shown tremendous courage to open up about his feelings and wellbeing," Giles said adding that spending significant amounts of time away from family with "minimal freedoms" has had a major impact on everyone's wellbeing in the past 16 months.

(Photograph:AFP)

Glenn Maxwell

Australia all-rounder Glenn Maxwell spoke about his battle with mental health, which forced him out of the game for two months. He took a break in late 2019 and was backed by several cricket stars, including Virat Kohli. 

"It can certainly wear you down when you're putting on a mask of being an international, domestic, whatever cricketer you are. When you're putting that on every day for people to see in public, it can really weigh you down and you can forget who you are, and forget what sort of person you are," he saud in a chat with cricket.com.au.

(Photograph:AFP)

Michael Phelps

Legendary swimmer Michael Phelps opened about his bout with anxiety and depression in a tweet. He took to Twitter and said: "I struggled with anxiety and depression and questioned whether or not I wanted to be alive anymore. It was when I hit this low that I decided to reach out and ask for the help of a licensed therapist. This decision ultimately helped save my life. You don’t have to wait for things."

(Photograph:Getty)

Ronda Rousey

Female UFC fighter turned WWE star Ronda Rousey revealed that her UFC loss to Holly Holm in November of 2015 took a big toll on her mental health. On the Ellen Degeneres show, Rousey said: “What am I anymore if I’m not this? And I was literally sitting there and thinking about killing myself and that exact second, I’m [thinking] ‘I’m nothing … what do I do anymore and no one gives a s*** about me anymore without this.”

(Photograph:AFP)

Virat Kohli

India captain Virat Kohli revealed that he battled depression during a harrowing tour of England in 2014 where he felt like the "loneliest guy in the world" after a string of failures with the bat.

In a conversation with former England player Mark Nicholas on his 'Not Just Cricket' podcast, Kohli conceded that went through a tough phase during the particularly difficult tour.

"Yes, I did," was his response when asked whether he had suffered from depression at the time.

"...it's not a great feeling to wake up knowing that you won't be able to score runs and I think all batsmen have felt that at some stage that you are not in control of anything at all," he recalled.

(Photograph:AFP)

Simone Biles

American gymnast Simone Biles pulled out of several events in Tokyo Olympics after citing issues with mental health. "Usually you hang out in the village, all that stuff," Biles said. "It does suck when you feel the weight of the world. There are no outlets with the amount of training that we do."

"We have tons of resources available to us," Biles added. "But I wanted to tough it out to the last minute, but obviously it didn`t work that way."

(Photograph:AFP)

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