Article provided by National Library Board

Lessons from Tokyo 2020


Top American gymnast Simone Biles might not have clinched a gold medal at the recent Tokyo Olympics. But by most accounts, she was a clear winner, a courageous mental health champion who swung the world’s attention from winning to well-being. 

By choosing to pull out of most of her events to focus on "getting myself right", Biles, 24, turned the spotlight on an issue often swept under the rug – athletes' mental health. 

Social media has resulted in many sportsmen feeling pressured. Those who miss gold medals or podium finishes often end up as targets of online vitriol even as they grapple with their own disappointment. For example, swimmer Joseph Schooling who became the first to win the Olympic gold medal at Rio de Janeiro in 2016, took some heat after he failed to qualify for the semi-finals in Tokyo.

The importance of mental health emphasised by the national sailors, Cecilia Low and Kimberly Lim, proves that this can unexpectedly deteriorate, especially if one is not constantly mindful and aware. Cecilia Low and Kimberly Lim are Singapore's first sailors to qualify for a medal race at the Olympics, and finished 10th in the 49erFX class in Tokyo. 

"Awareness is the most important thing", said Kimberly, 25. "We always talk about physical health like injuries and rehabilitation, but there's so little spoken about mental health and that's one of the biggest components in sport and in your life."

The sailors were speaking at an askST@NLB panel discussion titled Lessons From Tokyo. The virtual event was hosted by The Straits Times' assistant sports editor Rohit Brijnath and sports correspondent David Lee, who covered the Olympic Games for the newspaper.

The two athletes are well aware of the need for self-care. Cecilia, 30, shared that they have been working with psychologists since they were teenagers to help them tackle challenging aspects of their sporting careers.

They are also grateful for the national athletes who have shed light on the immense challenges of delivering peak performance on the global stage in response to hate comments on social media directed at Schooling. 

Kimberly hopes that people can better understand the future expectations of success and failure in sport, as a part of growing processes and succeeding  in the future.

"He made the whole country proud and helped a lot of athletes have the courage to go after their dreams," said Cecilia as she credited Schooling who inspired a new generation of athletes with his historic gold medal.

To better understand mental well-being in sports or up your game, check out these eight eBooks:

1. The Best Tennis of Your Life (2007)

By Jeff Greenwald 

E-book available at: 

This inspirational and timeless guide offers 50 practical tools you can use during any match. Drawing from his experience as a world-class player, sports psychology consultant, psychotherapist and former coach, the author offers comprehensive solutions that will give you the mental edge. 

2. The Hurt (2020)

By Dylan Hartley 

E-book available at: 

One of England's most successful rugby captains, Dylan Hartley tells how sports took a toll on his mental health. He describes with clarity how he went from a 16-year-old Kiwi travelling to England alone, to winning 97 international caps. 

3. The Comeback Quotient (2021) 

By Matt Fitzgerald 

E-book available at: 

Delving into the science and stories behind some of the most incredible sporting comebacks, sports editor and writer Matt Fitzgerald delivers a new blueprint on how to survive and thrive. 

4. The Mindful Athlete (2015)

By George Mumford

E-book available at: 

This stimulating story is for anyone looking to take their game to the next level. George Mumford, the sports psychologist and performance coach best known for mentoring Kobe Bryant, Michael Jordan and other renowned athletes, shares his revolutionary programme based on the practice of mindfulness. 

5. The Young Champion’s Mind (2018)

By Jim Afremow

E-book available at: 

An expert in sports psychology, Jim Afremow provides insightful ways of training the mind, body and spirit of a competitive athlete. These include themes such as how to get in a "zone," thriving on as a team, staying humble, and how to sustain long-term excellence.

6. What Made Maddy Run (2017) 

By Kate Fagan 

E-book available at: 

A tragic story of how American college athlete Madison Holleran struggled with depression and later committed suicide in pursuit of being perfect. This book also highlights the mounting pressures young people face in an age of social media saturation. 

7. Your Happiness Was Hacked (2018)

By Vivek Wadhwa and Alex Salkever

E-book available at:

Capitalising on the vulnerabilities of our brains, tech companies actively entice us to stay longer on our devices, preventing us from forming real human relationships. This book offers practical ways for us to reclaim our lives without dismissing technology.  

8. The Inner Game of Stress (2009)

By W. Timothy Gallwey and Edd Hanzelik  

E-book available at: 

The world today is more volatile than ever, leading to soaring levels of stress. In this thought-provoking book, two esteemed physicians offer an empowering guide to mental health that have helped athletes all around the world manage everyday stress by accessing their inner resources to maintain stability and achieve success.


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