Their Humanity Is More Important Than Their Abilities – Black Girl Nerds

Their Humanity Is More Important Than Their Abilities – Black Girl Nerds

Athletes are modern-day superheroes. They run at speeds that are comparable to a moving car or train. They can move their bodies through the air to execute flawless moves or keep audiences holding their breaths as they score the winning point or goal. 

Watching athletes perform ignites wonder and admiration in everyone. However, just because their physical abilities are far greater than most doesn’t mean they are superhuman. Under their rows of muscles, athletes experience mental struggles, not unlike the average person.

The humanity of athletes, particularly Black female athletes, is often undermined or ignored. Whether in gymnastics, tennis, running, or other sports, female athletes are expected to perform at the expense of everything else, particularly their mental health. 

Despite these unrealistic expectations, some incredibly talented and skilled athletes are showing the world that their abilities are just one part of who they are. They are not machines meant only to perform. 

Here are four athletes who bring honor to their sport while also preserving their mental health.

Simone Biles

Known as one of the greatest athletes of her time, Simone Biles won seven Olympic medals and 25 world championship medals. Despite her accomplishments, she shocked and angered the world when she withdrew from the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. 

Source: Getty Images

While it’s undoubtedly courageous to perform flips, jumps, and twists in front of hundreds of thousands of people, perhaps walking away from a sport she loves was one of her bravest moves. At that moment, she showed the world that she prioritized her mental health.

Biles admitted during the Tokyo Olympics that she was scared to do gymnastics. By revealing a genuine human emotion, Biles showed a tender and honest part of herself. She reinforced the reality that mental barriers can make a difference in one’s performance despite the hours of training and sacrifice. 

As Biles put it gracefully in an interview with Good Housekeeping: The word ‘champion’ used just to mean being on top or breaking records. Now it means being vulnerable, showing your inner strength, being courageous.”

Sha’Carri Richardson

Most people may know Sha’Carri Richardson as a swift runner who lost an opportunity because of a drug incident. However, Richardson’s career is so much more than a single incident. She is a woman who represents vulnerability, hard work, and perseverance. She just happens to run faster than most.

Source: Getty Images

This sprinter is a two-time world champion and a one-time world championship bronze medalist, whose upbringing would have made most other people stay on the sidelines. Yet Richardson decided to pursue greatness.  

Abandoned by her parents as a child, she was raised by her aunt and grandmother,  Yet, when Richardson’s birth mother suddenly died in 2021, the loss greatly affected her. However, the death of a loved one hasn’t been her only hardship. Richardson also contemplated suicide in high school and battled other mental health struggles. Despite all this, she has become the fastest woman in the world after winning the 100-meter dash in Budapest, Hungary.

After her victory, she encouraged the public during a press conference with these words: “It’s about knowing that no matter what happens, you never lose sight of yourself. You’re going to have good days, you’re going to have bad days; you are going to have better days, you’re going to have worse days. But you live to see tomorrow.”

Serena Williams

Before the issue of mental health and athleticism had become a mainstream topic, Serena Williams was becoming one of the greatest tennis players of all time. She is undoubtedly a superior athlete, having won 23 Grand Slam singles titles, more than any other person, female or male, in her era. 

For years, the public has seen Williams fiercely show up on the tennis course, swinging her rack with intensity and precision. Her mental health was never what people paid attention to.

In an interview with Selena Gomez for the mental health platform Wondermind, Williams mentioned that mental fitness was about shutting down. However, she has since learned that setting boundaries and prioritizing mental health is vital to her health as an athlete, woman, and mother. Setting unmoveable boundaries and prioritizing what matters most to her are some techniques the tennis star has used and continues to use to take care of herself. 

Raven Saunders

Raven Saunders is an Olympic shot put silver medalist. Although she was recently banned from competing until 2024, she still has a reputable record of accomplishments. She broke the national high school record for the shot as a teenager. Her success continued in college when she won three NCAA collegiate shot put titles. 

In addition to her accomplishments, she has been open about being a gay athlete who has struggled with depression. She compares her struggles with mental health and being an award-winning athlete to the struggles depicted in the Incredible Hulk story. 

Saunders shared in an interview with Yahoo! Sports. “[Through] my journey, especially dealing with mental health and things like that, I learned how to compartmentalize, the same way that Bruce Banner learned to control the Hulk, learned how to let the Hulk come out during the right moments, and that way it also gave him a sign of mental peace,” she says. 

It inspires others as more well-known and accomplished athletes come forward about their mental health struggles. It encourages athletes to prioritize their mental health while they train. Their vulnerability also reminds their fans, spectators, and observers that underneath anyone’s accomplishment is another human going through the same human experiences as everyone else. 

Kiersten Brown

Kiersten is a freelance writer and coach. As a writer, she has written for Travel Noire, Passion Passport, BAUCE mag, and various travel and lifestyle blogs. As a writer, her goal is to write content that inspires others to take action. As a coach, her goal is to empower women to be their most authentic selves. In her free time, you can find her dancing to any song any where.

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