— Published 19 October 2021

A psychological support unit for the American delegation

The Simone Biles episode at the Tokyo Games will not be without consequences for the American delegation at the Beijing 2022 Winter Games. Jessica Bartley, one of the heads of the medical department of the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee (USOPC), said on Monday that everything would be put in place next winter in China to preserve the mental health of the delegation members. “We learned a lot at the Tokyo Games, and we look forward to the Beijing Games to better understand the needs of our athletes when it comes to mental health” she said at the USOPC’s pre-Games press day in Beijing. The US body has already carried out extensive “screening” for possible psychological problems that athletes or their coaches may be suffering from, including depression, eating or sleeping disorders, alcoholism and drug abuse. At the Beijing Games, a team of mental health experts will be made available to the delegation. This will include therapists and psychiatrists. There will also be a helpline. As a bonus, the USOPC will offer therapy sessions, both individual and group, and a specific programme for transitioning to sports retirement for athletes close to leaving the sports scene. “One of the messages we want to get across, a little bit differently than the Tokyo Games, is that any Team USA athlete, any staff member, any family member, can access this,” explained Bartley. “So we’re there to really support the delegation.” According to Sean McCann, the USOPC’s chief psychologist, winter athletes are better prepared than their summer counterparts to handle the demands of the sanitary crisis. “They are more used to being cut off from their support system,” he explained on Monday, October 18th. “They’re very good at using Zoom, FaceTime and all the other technology to stay in touch with their families… It’s a challenge, but I honestly think our winter sports athletes are really trained to handle it all.”