The 1992 Winter Olympics took place in Albertville, France. Representing the host country, figure skater Surya Bonaly was just a teenager when she competed in her first of three Olympic Games.
All eyes were on her. Hopes were she would medal in individual figure skating, at the very least. Instead, Surya finished in 5th place.
The pressure and desire to succeed at the highest level of sports is stressful. More than most people, Surya Bonaly understands why United States gymnast Simone Biles withdrew from competition at the Tokyo Olympics this week. She has been in her shoes:
“The pressure, it’s immense, huge. And you know, the Olympic Games is a great adventure, the best you can ever imagine for an athlete, but it does give you a lot of stress. And when you’re one of the top, the stress is major and on top of focusing on your technique, what you’re supposed to do for your routine and all that and the judges, well, there is stress and the pressure of the media and obviously you want to make sure you do the best and you sacrifice your life for pretty much that moment.”
For the people who are disappointed by Simone Biles withdrawing from the Tokyo Olympics or believe she let her teammates and Team USA Gymnastics down, the figure skating champion said this:
“For the people who hate, the haters, too bad. You know, a champion’s not a robot. You know, we’re humans and champions have hearts, have, you know, soul and sometimes if your heart shatters or you’re feeling weak, well, it’s hard. And yeah. And I feel bad in a way. But in a way I feel, totally been in her shoes, three times at the Olympics and it’s hard.”
Though it may be surprising to many that Simone Biles withdrew from the Tokyo Olympics, Surya is not surprised by the events of this week:
“As an Olympian, I understand totally. So, I don’t have the same way of, you know, thinking. And I feel that, you know, she needs to be for sure, really, reboot totally, she needs a boost, she needs to feel more confident and because she knows she’s been there already four years ago. So, she’s capable for sure. And she did it at the Olympic trials a few months ago. But now she needs to relax, cool off and I don’t know, she needs to go out, maybe go party for a little while.”
Featured columnist Jay Bildstein joins us for this CYInterview to discuss, with Surya Bonaly, the subjects of bullying, coping with stress as an Olympic athlete, her mental philosophy as a figure skating coach/teacher and much more.
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