Their Fearlessness Evokes Us, however They Confirmed Us Their Fears

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Normally, you see André Höflich, a 24-year-old Olympic halfpipe snowboarder from Germany, in a sea of snow as he tears daringly down a mountain. However in a recent video interview for The Times, he sits in a darkish room and speaks on to the digicam: “If we didn’t have worry,” he says, “we’d all be useless by now.”

Starting in October, Occasions journalists and editors traveled to coaching camps, trial races and rehab services in Switzerland, Colorado, New York and Utah to fulfill with three dozen athletes, most of whom certified for the Winter Olympics in Beijing. They wished to ask how worry — worry of damage, worry of failure, worry of being unable to proceed a sport they love — impacts an athlete’s life.

At a time when candid dialog in regards to the mental health of athletes is extra prevalent, The Occasions hoped to uncover how Olympians confronted, or whether or not they even skilled, worry. The journalists didn’t count on, nonetheless, that each athlete they spoke with — together with those who ski downhill at 90 miles per hour or flip a number of occasions within the air — would admit to feeling it.

“They had been so forthcoming and so trustworthy,” mentioned Joe Ward, a Occasions Graphics editor and a producer on the mission, who has coated many Olympics. “I really feel like we hit on one thing that they’ve truly wished to speak about.”

That honesty takes middle stage in The Occasions’s five-part sequence, which begins with “What Scares the World’s Most Daring Olympians,” which was printed on-line on Tuesday. Via intimate interviews, motion photographs and written reportage, the bundle examines the paradox of worry at such a aggressive stage.

The mission took about 4 months, however the thought got here to Mr. Ward practically 15 years in the past through the 2008 Summer time Video games, when a 10-meter diver confessed throughout an interview that he frequently felt scared on the platform. This stunned Mr. Ward, who had assumed the divers had been “immune” to worry. “I discovered it actually attention-grabbing,” he mentioned, “and saved that behind my head for simply the correct second.” He started occupied with the idea once more through the Tokyo Olympics and determined to pursue it for the 2022 Winter Video games.

The mission reveals that worry can incite each hesitation and adrenaline — as Michael Dammert, the German freestyle snowboard coach, mentioned in one of many video interviews, “It’s your finest pal and your greatest enemy.” The bundle reveals conditions by means of athletes’ views. One installment contains a visualization of what Millie Knight, a British Paralympic skier who is almost blind, sees through her goggles as she races down a mountain.

One other ingredient reveals how even poor climate can frighten. Lots of the occasions “are carried out outside, counting on snow and ice, and one gust of wind can shut the runway,” mentioned Haeyoun Park, The Occasions’s deputy editor for Graphics. Video footage from an aerial skier’s helmet reveals how dizzying it may be to spin by means of the air when the sky and floor are practically the identical shade.

John Department, a Occasions reporter on the Sports activities desk who performed the interviews and wrote the textual content for the mission, started each dialog by asking athletes if worry performed a job of their skilled lives. “I believed a few of them would attempt to say no,” Mr. Department mentioned. “However each single certainly one of them mentioned sure, and ‘what I do scares me.’”

Every athlete was interviewed individually. Emily Rhyne, a cinematographer and editor at The Occasions, used a system of mirrors known as EyeDirect, which allowed the themes to look instantly into the digicam whereas nonetheless dealing with Mr. Department. “That sort of intimacy knowledgeable the remainder of the mission,” Ms. Rhyne mentioned.

Ms. Rhyne and a workforce of videographers additionally recorded the athletes atop glaciers performing their greatest trick or in coaching camps practising a transfer, and captured quieter moments, like when an athlete reassessed a ski or snowboard run.

Mr. Department realized that, typically, the worry of the bodily damage is the least of athletes’ worries.

“Each single certainly one of them is terrified of getting damage, however not certainly one of them is terrified of ache,” Mr. Department mentioned. “They’re terrified of damage due to what it means past that,” like lacking the Olympics or being unable to proceed their ardour.

Though Olympians might seem unflinching on a display as they soar to unbelievable heights or drop right into a halfpipe, the mission revealed a standard thread between opponents and readers.

“These athletes are as human as you and me,” Mr. Department mentioned. “They’re regular individuals who have discovered themselves in extraordinary circumstances. It doesn’t imply that they’re not afraid.” Their Fearlessness Evokes Us, however They Confirmed Us Their Fears

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