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Tokyo 2020

WATCH: Support dogs takeover to boost mental health of Tokyo Olympics bound athletes

In a bid to promote the mental health of athletes heading to Tokyo Olympics, Allianz has introduced a Support Dog Squad to provide much-needed emotional support.

Leticia Bufoni Dashawn Jordan Allianz Support Dog Squad
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Skateboarders Leticia Bufoni and Dashawn Jordan with members of the Allianz Support Dog Squad 

By

Sohinee Basu

Updated: 19 July 2021 11:29 AM GMT

Unlike all previous editions of the Olympics, the upcoming Tokyo Games will be presenting a starkly different picture. Much has happened in the world over the last one year and it has successfully managed to change life as we know it. The onslaught of the COVID-19 pandemic has only helped in making matters worse by bringing to the table a fresh set of challenges to an already taxing world.

In a IG TV video shared by the official Instagram handle of the Olympics, skateboarding athletes Leticia Bufoni from Brazil and California-based Dashawn Jordan opened up about their mental health struggles ahead of the Tokyo Olympics. In order to take care of these daily mental health battles, Allianz came up with Allianz Support Dog Squad to promote much-needed confidence and instil motivation in the athletes.

Like Bufoni and Jordan, players all across the world have had to negotiate with difficult terms to actually make a place for themselves at the Tokyo Games - while some made the cut, others lost out in vain. The pandemic brought life to a standstill and forced the world into a lockdown - new words like 'quarantine', 'work from home' entered the dictionary while tournaments began to get cancelled - one after another in 2020-21, as the virus attacked in waves.

Not having the usual perks of a pre-COVID world, players had to train in isolation or with a restricted number of members on their team to help them earn the Tokyo ticket. No wonder, the mental health of these athletes also went for a toss as it can get particularly lonely to battle your inner demons on your own.


How do pets boost us emotionally?

Perhaps now more than ever, the discussion on mental health and its importance has spiked in the sporting fraternity with players like 4-time Grand Slam champion Naomi Osaka being one of its strongest spokespeople.

Even before the pandemic existed, mental health concerns were spiking with depression and anxiety being the major tormentors. With COVID-19, these issues have only magnified and increased and made day-to-day existence difficult.

To combat this, Allianz came up with the concept of having a Support Dog Squad to help reduce anxiety, boost feelings of well-being and erase judgment and promote confidence in athletes preparing for the Tokyo Olympics.

It's unimaginable just how simple a friendly 'Woof!' and a quick wag of the tail or a flurry of licks from a dog can help calm us down and bring peace. As mentioned on the John Hopkins Medicine website, "Research has shown that simply petting a dog lowers the stress hormone cortisol , while the social interaction between people and their dogs actually increases levels of the feel-good hormone oxytocin (the same hormone that bonds mothers to babies)."

Playing a very instrumental role in hoisting the morale and keeping negative and pressing thoughts at bay, the company of a pet or specifically, a dog can work like magic and lift the mood. In fact, "A 2011 study found that pet owners had better self-esteem. Another study determined that pets provided greater social support than humans in mitigating depression," according to the John Hopkins website.

This wonderful initiative was much-needed and it simply shows how pets indeed, can be best friends to any human and help them out of their troubles by offering them with a lot of wholesome love!

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