Thursday, August 21, 2008

Striding Toward Mainstream

One of the reasons the Games are so captivating is that the world is able to view all sorts of athletics, 24/7, from the traditional swimming and gymnastics events to the rising basketball popularity to the track and field competitions to the fascinating table tennis and beach volleyball matches.

Usain Bolt has sprinted and danced into people’s hearts and living rooms faster than his world-record breaking runs. His success is substantial for his country and his sport. He has been referred to as a “freak of nature”, as an “anomaly”, and a “wonder”. One may question his mental makeup since he appears blinded by youth, a class clown who seems to want nothing more than to play around with his peers only minutes before he takes his mark. I’ve heard people question his pre-run routine. “Why is he not focusing?” “How can he be so loose?” “Is he just cocky?”

I’d argue that he is anxious to get started; he just releases his energy in another way. He makes himself feel welcome, wanted, and psyched to get started. It must be difficult to keep all of that excitable energy inside oneself in front of 91,000 screaming fans. Bolt often states he just wants to have fun and enjoy himself -- and I'm sure his words help ease his nerves.

Here is a shout out to those events everyone else does not necessarily care about. For example, imagine the pressure of an Olympic skeet shooter. He or she must be still, quiet the mind, utilize a steady finger, and fire at a small target after years of training. Props to the participants who love what they do and become the best in the world.

Rebecca Romero certainly knows about working toward perfection -- in two different Olympic sports. She already won a silver in rowing four years ago, a sport that is mentally and physically grueling.

Romero then set her sights on Beijing, but in cycling -- and saw all of her hard work pay off.

Here is a fitting excerpt about the mental game in rowing from the Otago Daily Times:

Rowing New Zealand high performance manager Andrew Matheson said every crew would prepare in their own way.

He believed the mental game is what sets an Olympics apart from the annual world championships, where New Zealand have been a dominant force in all three stagings since Athens.

"It's a small but significant difference. A lot of it comes down to the mind, handling the pressure," Matheson said.

Kudos to the athletes who do not necessarily get as much attention as Phelps or Nastia or Bolt. They are all awe inspiring, from a physical and mental perspective, and as deserving as any to be thrown into the mainstream.


Unknown said...

Bolts goofing off has got to be a little intimidating for his competition too - I mean, here they are in the moment of their lives, trying to work themselves up to win this race, and this guy is so relaxed and confident that he's laughing and joking. It's gotta be a little nerve racking for the other sprinters who are trying to fire up...

Dr. Oliver Eslinger said...

thanks, chap, I agree...opponents have their own mental routines, but Bolt's is almost impossible to ignore.

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