Biles was not the only athlete to triumph over mental health issues. Mark Cavendish was diagnosed with clinical depression in August 2018 as he struggled to overcome the effects of Epstein-Barr virus. Having helped break down some of the stigmas attached to mental illness – utterly refuting his previous belief that “depression was an excuse” – Cavendish almost went on to bring down an icon in 2021. Eddy Merckx’s mark of 34 stage wins at the Tour de France was long deemed untouchable but, at the age of 36, the British cyclist won his second sprint green jersey to equal the Belgian’s 46-year-old record.
A little more than a year before the Tokyo Olympics, skateboarder Sky Brown lay unresponsive with a fractured skull and a broken left wrist after plummeting from a half-pipe ramp. It took painful rehabilitation and huge mental strength to jump back on the board. In the Olympic final she made mistakes in her first two runs. Undeterred, the 13-year-old composed herself before pulling off a kickflip indy – the trick that had proved her undoing in previous attempts – in her final run to claim bronze in daring fashion.