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Simone Biles waits to perform on the vault during the artistic gymnastics final on July 27. Gregory Bull/AP

The pressure of competing in the Olympics and Tokyo’s severe heat have been impacting athletes’ mental and physical health at the Summer Games, and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) says it is working on both those fronts.

The IOC said it offers a 24-hour hotline available in 70 languages, a “safeguarding officer” within Tokyo’s Olympic Village and six free counseling sessions for athletes.

“I think we can always, as individuals and as representatives, we can always do more, and that’s what the Commission is working on. We’ve got to consistently stay engaged with all of our athlete representatives,” IOC mental health support chair Kirsty Coventry said in a Tokyo 2020 daily press briefing Thursday.

This comes after US gymnast Simone Biles withdrew from the individual all-around competition to focus on her mental health, putting a spotlight on the issue.

Tokyo heat: The committee is also working to prevent heat illnesses, particularly heat stroke, during the Games, Tokyo 2020’s medical and scientific director Richard Budgett said.

Budgett pointed to provisions such as changed formats, giving 10-minute cool-down breaks and stopping the match when the temperature rises over 32 degrees Celsius (89.6 degrees Fahrenheit), saying the committee has been “very well prepared” for the heat situation, particularly for tennis events.

Additionally, the committee has been working with local experts to prevent heat stroke as the athletes push themselves, he said.

It was so hot on the tennis courts in Tokyo on Wednesday, that Russian Olympic Committee’s Daniil Medvedev asked what would happen if he died during the match. Separately, Spain’s Paula Badosa was forced to retire from her quarterfinal match due to heatstroke.


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