BUDAPEST, Hungary — The autopsy of Olympic gold medalist Tori Bowie contained an easily overlooked one-line notation under the heading “Medical History: Bipolar Disorder.”
In and around the world of athletics, the withdrawal of the reigning sprinter has hit particularly hard as the first world championships since Bowie’s death begin in Hungary on Saturday. was not just an idea.
Those were the harsh realities revealed during years of training. The two also appeared near Florida, where police found the body of a 32-year-old woman who was eight months pregnant and died in her home just days after the coroner said it was complications from childbirth. manifested.
“She didn’t slip through the cracks,” her former coach Al Joyner told the Associated Press last month. “I don’t think people took it seriously enough.”
Bipolar disorder, a mental health condition that causes extreme mood swings, can be treated with medication and counseling. However, the National Institute of Mental Health cites research showing that 82.9% of the approximately 4.4% of U.S. adults who experience the disorder experience a “severe disability.”
Although Bowie had access to mental health services through both the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Committee and the U.S. Athletics Stadium, officials from both organizations said Bowie was at risk in the months and weeks before his death on April 23. He said he had not used the service.
Officials believe Bowie’s mental health has influenced how he coped with his increasingly difficult pregnancy with little help from friends, family and medical professionals. Stated. They spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss confidential information.
“Living Without Power”
The Associated Press spoke with Joyner and six other U.S. track and field and Olympic officials and team members who knew Bowie for more than a decade as an award-winning sprinter and at the time of his retirement. . The Associated Press also reviewed autopsy and police records, including a 911 call from a family acquaintance who asked to check on Bowie’s condition at his home after several days of lack of contact.
“The last time I spoke to this girl was over three weeks ago. was edited, said an acquaintance. “I have informed her family that I am concerned about her mental health.”
There were other red flags.
Neighbors saw Bowie sleeping on the floor of a local recreation center and on a bench with groceries under his feet in a park near his home. Neighbors, who spoke on condition of anonymity, revealed disturbing details about Bowie’s case.
A neighbor called the U.S. Olympic Committee with concerns, and the committee notified the U.S. Track and Field. Track officials reached out to Bowie’s agent, Kimberly Holland, who said Bowie didn’t need help.
Holland told The Associated Press earlier this month that Bowie was available for medical care. She “didn’t see any red flags,” she told The Washington Post in June, adding that she was adamant that Bowie wouldn’t give birth in a hospital.
Police went to Bowie’s home on May 2 after receiving several calls, including a 911 call from an acquaintance. An acquaintance told the dispatcher that he could not enter safely because of the smell emanating from the house.
Earlier this month, a lawsuit seeking foreclosure of Bowie’s Winter Garden, Fla., home was filed, alleging that Bowie had been in arrears since October 1, 2022, about seven months before his death.
When the autopsy results came out, it showed that there were no signs of crime or drug use. Her Bowie’s bi-polar disorder didn’t make much news, nor did another detail that she weighed 96 pounds even though she was eight months pregnant. In her prime, the 5-foot-9-inch splinter was a wall of muscle and weighed 130.
More was revealed about what the coroner listed as complications related to childbirth. Among them was eclampsia, which is caused by high blood pressure during pregnancy and causes seizures that can lead to coma.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, black women are three times more likely than white women to die from pregnancy-related problems. Bowie became the third woman on the 2016 US Olympic gold medal relay team to suffer complications during her delivery. All three were black. But Bowie died alone while Allyson Felix and Tiana Tashel gave birth in hospital.
The news of her death shocked the athletics world.
“There is so much sadness, and I think everyone feels it. It’s like, ‘Oh, this could have been prevented.’ Or, ‘I couldn’t tell Tori how I felt.'” said former decathlon athlete Trey Hardy, who has struggled with his own mental health issues.
Bowie was placed in an orphanage as a baby and was raised by his grandmother. According to Joyner, the episode shaped her life.
“She was always trying to prove something,” says Joyner. “And even if she proved something, it was never enough. It will be.” But when you do all those things and nothing happens, you stop believing in fairy tales. ”
But in many ways, Bowie’s career was a fairy tale.
Fast on his feet and able to jump high, Bowie was drawn to basketball since childhood growing up in Sandhill, Mississippi. She and everyone around her who inspired her to try her hand at the track quickly realized just how good she was. She attended Southern Miss University, where she won the NCAA long jump in 2011.
A few years later she was among the top sprinters in the world. She won silver in the 100m and bronze in the 200m at the 2016 Rio Games, and teamed up with Felix and others to win the gold medal in the relay to close out the Olympics.
A year later at the World Championships, Bowie sparked competition with 20 meters to go, leaning against the line and then rolling over the line to win the 100m title.
“I didn’t want to come back and say, ‘Oh, I should have done this,’ and I should have,” Bowie smiles as he talks about the win, the scrapes from the fall still raw on his feet.
After this victory, Bowie became a frequent red carpet visitor and developed a reputation as a fashion and model icon.
But a 2018 Instagram post told a less glamorous but unflinchingly honest story. Entitled “The Cost of Success,” the article was followed by a list that included: Late night. 2. Early morning. 3. I have few friends. 4. Be misunderstood. 5. Overwhelmed. 6. Doubt your sanity. 7. Be your own cheerleader. ” The conclusion was this. it would be worth it. “
The post comes six months after Bowie got into a physical altercation with training partner Shaunae Miller-Wibo at a training center in Florida in February 2018. Bowie said in an interview with the track publication FloTrack that he was bleeding from the head in the fight. Both sprinters were asked to undergo psychological counseling.
Bowie left Florida for the U.S. Olympic Committee-run elite athlete training center in Chula Vista, California. But when she showed up to start the 2019 season, she was told she owed the facility $6,000, and her unexpected bill prompted her to leave the center, she said. Told.
Bowie told FloTrack that he had lost faith in his coach Joyner and his agent Holland, both of whom were unwilling to cooperate in a financial dispute.
“I don’t know why they allowed me to be treated like this, so we haven’t talked about it much, so I’m very disappointed,” Bowie said in a 2019 interview.
Joyner admitted that a rift between him and Splinter had broken the relationship.
“At the time, Tori and I had a great relationship, but we paid a price,” Joyner said. “She thought I was involved in something. No, it just broke my heart.”
After finishing fourth in the long jump at the 2019 World Championships, Bowie posted on social media that he was looking forward to the Tokyo Olympics. The fight was delayed by a year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and Bowie did not attempt to qualify for the 2021 United States National Team. World Athletics says she has only competed in one race in 2022. She clocked 23.60 seconds in Florida on June 4th. She was nearly two seconds off her personal best in the 200m.
Joyner’s sister Jackie Joyner-Kersey, a great heptathlon and long jumper, spoke about the impact of people being out of touch and said that’s why she always answers the phone. .
“I want to hear your voice. I can’t hear you through text messages,” Ms Joyner Kersey said. “Because while you may be texting that you are doing good, your voice may tell you something different.”
Spotlighting the Mental Health of Athletes
Until the last few years, the stigma around mental illness was so great that virtually no athlete talked about it publicly.
Gymnast Simone Biles and sprinter Noah Lyles are among the athletes who helped change the dynamics of the Olympic world. Their candor about their struggles at the Tokyo Games helped change the conversation.
Despite the occasional social media post discussing the sacrifices professional athletes have to make, Bowie remained largely uninvolved in the conversation.
Whether she was seeking medical or emotional counseling, she had a place to turn. In the wake of the sexual abuse scandal that rocked the Olympic world and the COVID-19 pandemic, the U.S. Olympic Committee doubled down on mental health services for athletes, deploying doctors, hotlines, support groups, Added an accompanying expert. Teams and many other resources for athletes who need help coping with the strains of competition and everyday life.
“You don’t have to talk to the athletes all the time. You need to talk to people who can connect with them,” said Jess Bartley, the Olympic Committee’s director of mental health. “And I spend hours with that person on how to have a five-minute conversation to connect that athlete to the right resource.”
At one point, Joyner may have been one of those people, too. There was a time when he thought Bowie was so talented that he could have placed himself in the same ranks as some of history’s greats, including his sister Joyner-Kersey and his late wife, 100m world record holder Florence. said there was. Griffith Joyner.
“Tori loved to be the best. She was like a sponge,” Joyner said. “I can’t think of Tori without her smile.”