The anonymous Japanese man stands there for two hours every day to cheer athletes passing by in buses.
"Are ‘mental health issues’ now the go-to excuse for any poor performance in elite sport? What a joke," wrote Piers Morgan, in response to Simon Biles announcing that she was withdrawing from a few events citing mental health issues. Athletes face tremendous pressure at the Olympics and Simon Biles, arguably America's greatest gymnast, was not any less susceptible to pressure as the next athlete. What athletes need more than anything during the Olympics is support. They need less of Piers Morgans and more of the anonymous Japanese man who shows up every day outside the Tokyo Olympic Village with inspirational signs motivating them.
A Japanese man has been greeting athletes with this sign during the Olympic games. pic.twitter.com/w9ZxJB1YZU— Carlos de Ory ツ 🌴💻☀🇮🇩 (@mrstartups) July 29, 2021
The Japanese man is there outside the village every day at 7 am that they have already won by making it to Tokyo as Olympians. He has gone viral for holding a sign that reads: "Good morning athletes! Even if you don’t get a medal, you’re still the best!! So believe in yourself." He is there to remind the athletes that it's okay to not win medals and sometimes you just need that kind of support. With the Olympics being the culmination of four years of practice, the pressure can often get to you. With only three medals to win for the participants, many athletes will be left despondent. His efforts haven't gone unnoticed. His message has struck a chord with athletes and many shares images of him holding the banner on their Instagram handles.
He waits close to two hours every day outside the Olympics village and holds the sign high every time a bus transporting Olympic athletes passes by. He said the sign was to counter people's obsession with medals and medal counts. He initially started out holding welcome signs on July 22, a day prior to the opening ceremony. He then decided to change the sign as he saw people compare medal counts. His pictures have gone viral, turning him into a mini-celebrity. While he's a regular face outside the village, he prefers to stay anonymous. He has said he will be standing every day for two hours until the last day (August 8) of the Tokyo Olympics, reminding athletes that they are already winners. If you're in Tokyo to see the Olympics or even visiting, you can catch him outside the Olympics village at the big Harumi 3-chome crossing.
This has also been an Olympics where athletes have been more vocal about mental health issues. Simon Biles spoke about it after clinching the bronze medal on the balance beam. "It means more than all the golds," said Biles, referring to the four gold medals she won in Rio Olympics in 2016, reported NBC New York. "I pushed through so much over the last five years and the last week while I've been here. It was very emotional and I'm just proud of myself and all of these girls as well." She had pulled out of four previous events — all-around, vault, uneven bars, and floor exercise — citing mental health issues that triggered twisties, a mental state where your muscle memory fails you when you're in the air mid-twist. “I just feel like we have to focus on ourselves as humans, not just athletes, because I feel like we lose touch of our human feelings sometimes,” said Biles, reported The Washington Post.
A Japanese man has been greeting athletes with this sign during the Olympic games.— Joe Pompliano (@JoePompliano) July 28, 2021
(h/t u/hangry-person) pic.twitter.com/eGGudUVCfu
Jessica Bartley, the director of mental health services for the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee, said that athletes opening up about mental health issues will give strength to others to open up and seek the help they need. “This is going to be helping any 8-year-old gymnast who might be struggling, any up-and-coming track and field athlete to be able to say: ‘Something doesn’t feel right. They got help. They went to somebody.'” Biles has been the most high-profile athlete to speak up and it's drawing attention to the importance of mental health. "We're not just athletes or entertainment — we're human, too, and we have real emotions. Sometimes they don't realize that we have things going on behind the scenes that affect us whenever we go out and compete," she said.