US Olympic great Michael Phelps says it’s “hard to comprehend” what today’s athletes are going through with the Tokyo Games postponed in the face of the coronavirus pandemic.
“It’s our life,” Phelps said in an interview on NBC’s Today show on Monday. “I’ve tried to replay what I would be going through emotionally at this very time if I was still competing.
“It’s hard to really kind of comprehend it.”
The International Olympic Committee took the historic decision to postpone the Tokyo Games by 12 months as Olympic hopefuls found it harder and harder to train with sports and facilities shut down by the pandemic.
Phelps, who retired after the 2016 Rio Olympics with a record 28 medals – 23 of them gold – said athletes must try to find positives in the delay.
“You go through something for four years. We kind of know exactly when it’s going to come, and our bodies are ready for it, and then we have to wait,” he said.
“The biggest thing now is everybody to look at this as an opportunity, an opportunity for another year, fine-tuning some small things that are going to help you make a big difference.”
Phelps, who has detailed his own battles with anxiety and depression, had already voiced concern that the stress of postponement could take a toll on the mental health of athletes.
“If you are in a spot where you need help, to reach out and ask for help,” Phelps said of the advice he is offering. “It was something that was very difficult for me to do.”