I could never be accused of being an admirer of Bernard Tomic. As much as they are looked up to by younger aspirants, I don’t actually hold professional athletes to higher standards of behaviour, but that doesn’t mean I excuse poor behaviour. And some of Tomic’s on and off-field behaviour has been quite distasteful over a number of years.
After writing that, I might have been expected to jump into him with enthusiasm after his recent decision to skip the Rio Olympics citing a busy schedule and personal circumstances, but I won’t.
Neither I nor anyone else has any right to pass judgement on him if he doesn’t want to participate in the Olympics. Firstly, we don’t know what ‘personal circumstances,’ Tomic is referring to (and he certainly has no need to justify himself by telling us what they are).
Being a successful athlete is no guarantee of happiness and emotional stability. Far from it, as Buddy Franklin demonstrated when he withdrew from the Swans’ 2015 finals campaign to fight health condition. There is no actual suggestion that Tomic is battling a mental illness, but the psyche is a complex and vulnerable thing. We never know exactly how an experience will impact on an individual's wellbeing. Only Tomic and those close to him can know what is in his best interest based on his circumstances.
Secondly, who is the moral authority that decides the Olympics are more important than other tournaments. For many people, winning an Olympic medal for their country is the pinnacle of sporting achievement, but that doesn’t make those who don’t feel this way wrong. Arguably Tennis Australia may feel the investment in Tomic’s development is not being repaid, but Tomic may argue he gives them better return by doing everything to maintain his world ranking and seeding, in order to perform better in major tournaments.
All that said, I still find Tomic’s public persona fairly repugnant. I just can’t use his choice to miss the Olympics as an excuse to criticise him.