The mental challenge of athletes to compete without an audience in Tokyo 2020

The people in the stands will be conspicuous by their absence at the next Tokyo 2020 Olympic fair, to be held a year later due to the pandemic. And beyond all the sporting challenges for athletes, one more is added: the mental challenge of competing without an audience.

This situation has already been foreseen by the organizers of the maximum athletic fair, which will feature applause and public celebrations recorded in stadiums and empty enclosures, as well as robots that seek to encourage athletes.

Competitors will also be able to view mosaic video selfies of fans around the world on screens.

Virtual reality helps a lot, but experts warn that it does not match the effect of the actual presence of people vibrating directly and synchronously with the feats performed by athletes.

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The mental challenge of competing without an audience

One of the athletes who will experience this situation firsthand is Dafne Navarro, Mexican classified to Tokyo 2020 in the trampoline gymnastics discipline.

She, in an interview for Tec Review, affirms that it is prepared for whatever comes.

“I have no problem competing without an audience, it is even something almost positive, since that way I will have one less distraction to worry about. So I am calm ”.

However, this gymnast, the first Mexican classified in history in the trampoline modality, comments that it has been difficult to adapt to the new conditions of participation that a little over a year ago it seemed that they were not going to transform so much.

“I was just remembering, before sleeping, how in February 2020 I thought it was going to be the Olympic Games and I did not expect that I would not be able to be at the opening or closing ceremonies, because now everything is super-controlled.”

And it is that all athletes have had to reduce the time of stay to the maximum, to avoid contagion by Covid-19. This is how the current protocols mark it and it is necessary to abide by them.

All athletes will have to act without that communion with the public, key from the point of view of the spectacle, but not necessarily essential in terms of sporting performance.

The point of view of a gymnastics judge

About, Naomi Chieko Valenzo Aoki, a Mexican who will also participate in Tokyo 2020, not as an athlete, but as a gymnastics appeal jury, in an interview for Tec Review comments the following:

“There are athletes who grow when they have the pressure of the public, but there are others who feel more comfortable without public. In the end, the Olympics are the ultimate sports festival and all athletes would expect to be with an audience rather than without an audience ”.

Naomi will participate as a member of the International Gymnastics Technical Committee, so she will be monitoring that the competitions of this sport comply with the established rules, including the performance of the judges.

“Everyone, of course, would like to have an audience and normal conditions of competition, but we are also very aware that we have to live this pandemic and for that we have prepared ourselves,” he says.

Valenzo Aoki has had the privilege of talking with gymnasts from different countries who will participate in Tokyo 2020, and the conclusion he has reached is clear: they are well prepared.

“They have had a year and a half to get psyched up, and the athletes are excited as if they were any other Olympic Games; It is the goal of their sports career and they are very focused on delivering maximum performance.

Naomi, who has already participated as a judge in Sydney 2000, Athens 2004 and Beijing 2008, as well as a senior jury in London 2012, assures that her role in Tokyo 2020 will be able to be performed with the same quality as before there was a change in protocols.

“In my case, as a judge, I must be super concentrated, and the truth is that I don’t feel much difference between having or not having an audience,” he adds.

Mexican idiosyncrasy will be tested

Tec Review also consulted three sports psychologists, from Psi I Want to Can, an online psychotherapy clinic, who argue that athletes from individual disciplines will be able to achieve optimal performance more easily, although in team sports things can change. Here are their views.

“For example, in gymnastics and diving, in a fundamental part, there is no interaction with the public, and this situation may even benefit the athletes in their concentration,” he says. Mayra Edith Cu Menes.

While in the case of group sports, football would be the one that would decrease the quality of competition the most.

“Soccer could be the discipline most affected, because it had always been accompanied by the public, emotion and passion,” he says. Jessica Alejandra Acosta Labastida.

Although it is not valid to fall into the absolutism of generalizations, especially when it comes to the minds of human beings, it is possible to find cultural trends that, in the case of Mexican athletes, could influence their performance in the next Olympic Games .

In this sense, Osvaldo López Maguey He says that Mexicans, in general, love the party, the verbena and the cheers. And this kind of push cannot be given in Tokyo.

“In the world, Mexicans are recognized because we are noisy, because we tend to be that small group of 10 people who notoriously support at the Olympics, and this motivates athletes.”

For this reason, López Maguey recommends that before facing any competition, it is convenient to prepare yourself to face the flat budgets. It is key to go with the conviction that, even from a distance, an entire country is supporting its athletes.

“That makes the difference in how it is going to affect the Mexican whether or not there is an audience, who feels accompanied, because he knows it and not because he necessarily feels that there are people physically there,” he concludes.

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