• Anna Meares with coach Gary West in the Rio velodrome (AAP)
When does supporting our athletes become such a burden that it weighs upon them as a mental burden?
By
Cycling Central

16 Aug 2016 - 4:23 PM 

The original caption for the news story that the above image was pulled from was "Anna Meares has led a list of brutal, emotional Aussie Olympic exits on another day without a medal". 

Shocking in some ways that an emotional response like the one Meares provided when she opened up to Kate Bates after competition could be referenced so immediately to the lack of medals.

The Meares' interview was remarkable for the way she opened up and talked about the doubts and vulnerabilities that most athletes normally keep out of the public eye.

In particular, she paid tribute to her coach Gary West for talking her through a period when she was about to quit last season, talked about her disappointment with her tenth in the women's sprint and asked for forgiveness from the public.

Legend Anna Meares reflects on Rio and career
Anna Meares bowed out of competition at the Rio Olympics with 10th overall in the 9th-12th sprint. It wasn't a performance reflective of her career or even this Olympics after her bronze in the keirin and just missing another bronze by 0.02 seconds in the team sprint.

After watching Anna Meares' emotional interview following her final event in Rio de Janiero, 'Mick' Maroney penned this response on Facebook, which we have reproduced here.

Dr Michael 'Mick' Maroney OAM is a current director on the board for Triathlon Australia, after a career as an elite triathlete, coach, teacher and academic with significant involvement in elite sport for over 30 years. His Order of Australia was awarded for his service to sport of athletics, particularly triathlon.

Anna Meares encapsulated a slow dawning of reality on us all at these Olympic Games. 

In tears, and with a heavy heart, she asked the Australian people to forgive her for not 'delivering' this time. On the back of the incredibly realistic self assessments of the Campbell sisters, and Cam McEvoy's sportsmanship - I think it's time to rethink the way we approach our sporting expectations of our athletes, and the pressures we apply at Games time. 

As a director of an Olympic sport, I know only too well the vice-like grip of 'performance, or else...' funding models - and the toll that takes on administrators, coaches, athletes, and support staff.

It's at a point now where we all live or die via medal tallies.Then when it doesn't work out, go to plan, or meet key performance indicators athletes are castigated, demonised, and summarily judged as 'failures'. 

Athletes are human beings - and we have all seen the fallout from a number of retired athletes and their broken lives post-sport.

Let's do better and make sport fun again - if my kids ever get that far and wear the green and gold, the last thing I would want is for them to ask their country to forgive them for not living up to some contrived national expectation.

With more and more money being pushed to ensure that we reach our desired slot on the medal tally and with media and public attention for some sports funneled into a few performances every four year cycle, there isn't really an end in sight for this sort of pressure on athletes.

Is it a societal change that needs to happen to shift some of the overwhelming expectation from our stars?

Do we need to move away from the notion that concentrating so much focus on an event that happens once every four years is bound to create unbelievable amounts of stress?
Or is it simply part and parcel of being an elite athlete these days?