TOKYO – Virginia Fuchs smashes her fist into her opponent’s skull. Sweat, and sometimes blood, flies as athletes hit each other over and over again. Finally, the fight ends. Then the fight begins.
Fuchs, 33, has severe obsessive compulsive disorder, characterized by a fear of pollution. His condition would be challenging for a human in the easiest of circumstances. And life as an Olympic boxer is not one of the easiest circumstances.
Take brushing your teeth as an example. First, he puts on gloves and uses soap and water to wash the outside of his mouth. Then the inside of the mouth is washed. Then open a package that contains a new toothbrush. Then another.
“I could use five in a single tooth brushing session,” he says. “I could use 20 in a toothbrushing session.”
Rationally, understand that none of this makes much sense. But OCD is not rational. She’s not looking for a certain number of reps, but an elusive “clean feeling,” she says. Before you shower, use three different products to rub around your mouth: Aveeno Facial Cleansing Wipes, Soap, and Aveeno Daily Wash Wipes. Repeat that cycle as many times as necessary. The shower itself takes an average of 45 minutes to an hour, less than in 2019, when they sometimes lasted four hours.
Sometimes you throw away unopened boxes of toiletries because they hit the ground. (After a few rounds of this, her mother, Peggy, suggested that they start donating those containers to women’s shelters, so now they do.) Fuchs washes the clothes several times a week; This process begins when you place your shoes on paper plates filled with bleach to sanitize the soles and then toss them into the machine. She brought two suitcases full of cleaning supplies to the Olympics. They were empty in a week. He finally signed up for an Amazon Japan account. Now she receives regular deliveries in the Olympic Village.
Fuchs was diagnosed in the eighth grade, after being hospitalized with anorexia. Doctors realized that the underlying disease was actually OCD. The effects of the disorder have fluctuated over the years – in college, in the past, it didn’t interrupt your life much. In 2019, he sought hospital treatment. These days you are somewhere in between those extremes.
“His life is much more difficult than yours and mine because of this,” says his father, Robert. “It’s hard to imagine that he can survive.”
In some ways, says Peggy, the pandemic was a relief. Finally, everyone else was also sanitizing the mail. And “he loves Tokyo,” says Peggy. “She said, ‘Mom, I’m moving here! It is so clean! “
All of this, and then Fuchs willingly lets strangers sweat and bleed all over her. This seems like it would be unbearable. He says it is the best part of his day. “It’s liberating,” she says. Outside the ring, his rational mind constantly struggles to push back intrusive thoughts. Inside the ring, she is too busy trying to earn gold to care who salivates where.
She catalogs which parts of her body have been in contact with germs, but doesn’t stop at contamination. You are doing this to get better at boxing., she tells herself in those moments. This is what you should do.
“After I’m done boxing, I go back to the real world,” he says. “That’s when the thoughts come back, and that’s when they haunt me.”
His parents wonder what he will do after he retires. She says she has no intention of finding out anytime soon. She is a medal favorite here, and she plans to turn pro after the Olympics. She believes that her daily fight with OCD prepares her for whatever else she may face.
“I always tell myself that this is why I am the best fighter,” she says. “There is no other athlete who can live my everyday, everyday life like I do, Y be able to reach this world-class level. “
If you win a medal, he says, it will run over your head without disinfecting it first. “Now if the guy drops it to the ground before it’s on my neck, then I’d say, ‘Aaah!’ ”She says, laughing. She might wince. You might think how quickly you could get to the bathroom after the ceremony. But he would still get the medal.
More Olympic coverage:
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.