Isaiah Jewett’s Nightmare at the Olympics Was Everything But

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For every sweat-soaked victory on the track at Tokyo’s Olympic Stadium, many hopes were dashed. in one wrong step.

The excursions in particular—a runner miscalculating in front of an obstacle, a runner lurking around in a tight pack—held the breath of the few spectators allowed in the stadium.

One of the runners whose Olympic journey ended face down on the track was 24-year-old effervescent Isaiah Jewett from California. He won the 800-meter NCAA title in June and qualified for his first Olympic Games by running and shocking his personal best time later that month. Donavan Grill in the process.

Jewett was third in the 800m race in Tokyo as he took the final corner of the semi-final and positioned himself for a final sprint to qualify for the next lap.

“I was doing my race very well and I was very happy about it,” he said.

But in this final corner Jewett and Nijel Amos from Botswana fell hard. They paused on the way as other runners passed over them.

“As soon as I fell, I said, ‘This is not me. I thought someone else had fallen,” Jewett said.

Jewett’s experience is a nightmare for any athlete, and Dr. Jessica Bartley encourages athletes to face off before their race.

“How do I celebrate if I succeed and what do I do if I don’t?” Bartley wants athletes to ask themselves before qualifying.

Jewett was feeling great after his first round. Weeks later on the phone, he seemed ecstatic as he talked about how surreal it was to race against opponents he had only seen on TV. He said he always had big dreams, so he had his eyes on the gold medal.

Athletes have long had to deal with many possibilities. While some athletes achieve their wildest goals, others will have a bad day the day that should be the best day. Even a truly, truly wonderful day can lead to an overwhelming heartbreak.

Rai Benjamin The US athlete, who broke the world record in the 400-meter hurdles and ran the race of his life, came second after Norwegian Karsten Warholm, who also broke the world record. Benjamin burst into tears after the race. Noah Lyles, a famous American sprinter, won a bronze medal in the 200 meter run. He too was overwhelmed and burst into tears while talking to members of the media after the race.

So how can athletes be supported when some inevitably fail to achieve their goals? A question Bartley faced when he was hired to design a larger mental health support system for the US delegation in September 2020. As more Olympic athletes expressed the pressure and suffering that comes with performing at the highest level of their sport, more people welcomed different types of support.

For the first time, all U.S. Olympic athletes have undergone mental health screening before the Games this year. And in Tokyo there was a team of mental health care providers assigned to respond immediately to a crisis or trauma.

But just as a victory can be followed by heartbreak, a tragedy can turn into something bigger for the athletes on the track.

For Jewett, that meant looking at lessons learned from his favorite anime characters. He talked about perseverance, heroism, and the determination to stand up again and again.

“I could feel myself starting to fall,” he said, reflecting on his August 1 fall, “but for some reason I looked at the other opponent and saw the defeat on his face and the hero I wanted to be out. So I said, ‘Let’s get up and finish this race.'”

Asked how he was able to get over these feelings so quickly, Jewett paused.

He said he was passed on with empathy towards Amos. “At that moment, when I saw him and he looked so down, it hurt,” Jewett said. “I didn’t want to hurt him and I didn’t want to hurt him. I wanted to do something that was good, something that was right.”

Jewett held out his hand, and he and Amos helped each other run the last 150 meters together.

Jewett said the memory of his fall is still a hard pill to swallow. But in some ways it was even better than a win. President Biden and First Lady Jill Biden, called him a hero. His name is perhaps better known now than when he was on the podium. And it has been an inspiration for athletes looking for an example of how to bounce back after a major disappointment.

“If you’re giving everything you have, you have nothing to regret,” Jewett said plainly. “Yes, it might turn out differently than expected, but that’s life.”

“Heroes always fall at the end of the day,” he said, “but legends always stand up.”



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