Jaleen Roberts smiles during the Women's Long Jump T37 at the IPC World Para Athletics Championships 2019 Dubai on Nov. 10, 2019 in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.
When a lot of people see Olympic and Paralympic athletes they see world records, gold medals and success.
“Sometimes people forget that as athletes we’re people too and we face a lot of the same struggles that everybody else faces,” Para track and field athlete Jaleen Roberts explained. “I think it’s important for people to realize that we face struggles that they don’t see and that we’re not just these extremely happy and positive people all the time. It’s okay for us to have bad days and to struggle with things too.”
Roberts candidly discussed just how difficult the postponement of the Games was to process as a first-time Paralympic hopeful.
“I took it really hard and seemingly lost all of my motivation and drive. For four years I had been looking forward to competing at the Games and becoming a Paralympian and medaling, it felt like in a second it was all taken away from me,” Roberts explained.
She admitted that it took a few weeks and a new perspective for her to really come to terms with the postponement. A new lens allowed her to embrace the extra time to prepare physically and mentally, but that doesn’t mean her struggles with mental health are over.
“I feel like a lot of us try to put on a facade because we don’t want to show weakness,” Roberts said. “Since the pandemic and the postponement began, it hasn’t been super easy. But I’m taking steps to work through it and I’m just trying to be patient with myself and giving myself a little bit of grace. Small progress is still progress.”
At just 21 years old, Roberts is one of the younger members of the national team. Her journey to the world stage was a fast one.