TOKYO (AFP) - Britain's most-decorated female Olympian Charlotte Dujardin has spoken of her sympathy for struggling United States gymnast Simone Biles following her own battle with mental health problems earlier in her career.
The 36-year-old dressage rider took her Olympic medals tally to six in three Games with two bronze medals in Tokyo.
That moved her one ahead of retired British rower Katherine Grainger - though track cyclist Laura Kenny could equal or even surpass Dujardin in Japan.
Dujardin felt immense pressure after securing double gold at the 2012 London Olympics, laying bare her struggles in her 2018 autobiography "The Girl on the Dancing Horse".
"Depression was not something I'd ever really understood," she wrote, saying she wanted to "hurt herself because she felt such pain".
She said she punished herself by not eating, losing nearly 13 kg in weight.
Dujardin suffered her traumatic episodes after the London Games but Biles' struggles were evident to the watching world during the gymnastics competition in Tokyo.
She stood down during the women's team final last week, struggling with the "twisties", a potentially dangerous condition meaning gymnasts lose the ability to orientate themselves in mid-air.
The American star, 24, subsequently pulled out of a series of individual events, only returning for the beam final on Tuesday (Aug 3), in which she took bronze.
Dujardin, who had to battle back from a fractured skull in 2009, said she could sympathise with Biles, who won four Olympic golds at the 2016 Rio Games.
"It is hard being successful," she told AFP by phone from the stables she shares with mentor Carl Hester in southwest England.
"It is a hard place to be with the pressure and the expectation. Those are quite hard things to have on your shoulders all the time."
Dujardin has faced further challenges, including breaking up after a 13-year relationship with her fiance Dean Golding two years ago.
"I have to say having the right people around you supporting you gets you through," she said. "You just have to make sure you never get to the point of no turning back.
"I am talking about ending your career, not anything else, and that you feel you cannot do it any more. But with the right people it can help to prevent that."
Since returning home, Dujardin has been celebrating with friends and family who were unable to support her in Tokyo because visitors are barred from attending due to coronavirus restrictions.
The rider, who also won a gold in Rio, is still getting used to her new position as the most-decorated British female Olympian, at least for now.
"It was a wow moment," she said. "I cannot quite believe it. It is hard to really quantify what I achieved.
"I did not realise it until the media kept asking 'what does it feel like' and I went 'oh my God!' - that with the second bronze I had beaten someone as legendary as Katherine Grainger's record was unreal and you get such a thrill out of it."