When Simone Biles withdrew from the Olympic women’s gymnastics team final last week because of her mental health, I couldn’t help but think of another Olympian — Canadian sports legend Hayley Wickenheiser — and what happens when culture tries to eat champions for breakfast.
Wickenheiser is a five-time Olympic medalist — four golds, one silver — in women’s hockey. As a trailblazer in a male-dominated sport, she knows something about challenging stereotypes and changing culture. Several years ago, in a career full of surprises, she unleashed the biggest one of all: She went to medical school.
When I interviewed her earlier this year, Wickenheiser had keen observations about the similarities and differences between medicine and Olympic sport … and how odd it is that any pursuit would equate “excellence” with personal self-destruction. One particular story stuck out.