Tokyo: Thomas Rohler has seen the summit of Mount Olympics. Five years ago, in Rio, a lifelong dream of his came true when he won the Olympic gold medal in men's javelin.
Like any athlete in the prime of his life, he was raring to go for Tokyo 2020. Then, he suffered an injury just two months before the Games.
Most other athletes in his position would have tried to compete despite the shooting pain in his back. This is the Big O after all. Comes once in four years. Makes legacies. Builds athlete brands.
Rohler, though, made the tough"and honest"decision to pull out, making the announcement via a sombre Instagram video.
"I was deeply emotional when I announced that decision. We tried to do everything possible to make it to the Games. But it was a fight against time. There was just not enough time," Rohler told Firstpost.
"I think nothing is really worth risking your well-being for. There's no circumstance where you should risk your own health after your (body is at its) limit or it can hurt you after your career. So, it was not just about the Olympics. Of course, making the decision was very, very tough."
While athletes often choose to persevere through pain and injury to compete at the Games, Rohler has seen the desperation from people to push limits even in smaller meets.
"I wouldn't say that athletes push through limits only for the Olympics. I've seen people do that in regionals and national competitions, athletes risking more than it is worth," he said.
Before he eventually made the decision to withdraw from the Olympics, there were many moments spent agonising. Multiple conversations with his inner circle. Eventually, the calculation was simple. If he competed, he risked aggravating the injury further, which might cut short his career altogether.
"It wasn't just one moment that led me to taking a decision like that. It's never easy, given my position in the sport. It takes a process and it takes time. That's what I took. Time. That's the important part. So, there wasn't a single day where I said today I have to decide whether I should compete at Tokyo or not. It was a big process. Talking to family. Coach. Talking to the medical team. But at the end you are the only person who can make this decision."
The German thrower revealed that he had been swamped with messages from many other athletes after his announcement.
"Today, I know that it was exactly the right decision. This is what I understand from so many messages from other athletes, who told me that now they too can dare to take the tough decisions in their careers," said Rohler. "I hope I was able to really share just the truth of top performances. There's always a story behind athletic performance. You should be strong enough to really listen to your own body rather than do what people expect from you from the outside."