The Last Length To The Olympics – Nerves, Jokes and Pain

Published 7 years ago
The Last Length To The Olympics  – Nerves, Jokes and Pain

The arduous chopping and grinding that has molded Olympians into shape may be over, but now the heat is being turned up. It’s an intense process that takes intuition, passion, technique, and persistent, but slight, adaptations to extract the last remaining drops of excellence from us. This is our final preparation.

The massive 30x100m sets thrown at us in the beginning have peeled away the unwanted layers, priming us for the imminent refining process. Getting to this level is not about the how, it’s about the why, because when the purpose is greater than the pain, anything is possible.

Most of what we do now is technique-driven, focusing on efficiency: every stroke we make needs to take us further faster and with less energy. Little surprises start popping up as we begin to see our times getting faster and we are constantly comparing the most recent race to the previous one. I’m still about five seconds off my world record time of 2.04.81 and if I am to get anywhere close to that again, every stroke, kick, and turn needs to be perfect. This process can be frustrating due to the continual failures but also the most rewarding, because when we add the perfect touch at the right time, we create magic. We can’t go through those enormous sets again as we need to focus – so our sets are condensed to somewhere around 8x100m. This allows every set to be scrutinized, consistently testing and adding pinches of change to get the perfect form.


The testing and competitions we go through are essential in bringing our bubbling nerves to a simmer. Our minds become clearer as the sensory impact of these ‘good nerves’ help sustain our focus. Overthinking is an unnecessary energy that can cloud our mind and create the potential for our nerves to boil over. “Did I do everything in my control,” is a common question among athletes and I came up with a method that uses four basic, yet not-so-easy, rules to follow: never skip practice; arrive early; do what the coach tells me; and leave late.

I have often been jeered and laughed at because this is the behavior of a ‘teacher’s pet’. I have learned to make sure that any noise like this dies down in the last few months of training. I become selfish. This is my time to marinate. A time when the perfect balance of everything we have worked on begins to slowly release and all the goodness needs to rise to the surface. Any major changes, pointless additions or negative stimulus will have an adverse effect on just how good this will be. The little surprises we start seeing elevate our confidence, clearing our mind from any negativity. Then it arrives, the time to trust that we’ll be rewarded for all the sweat we’ve poured into our work.

Every day has been about focusing on the Olympics but now, the night before an event, is the longest night; our thoughts begin to stir and the ‘bad nerves’ can set in. Athletes are extremely self-critical and we can generally handle this internal pressure. Tomorrow is different. We are about to be judged by the world. This external pressure is internally motivated and can allow self-doubt to build up. Athletes need to find a way of letting off steam: my coach has a list of jokes at hand and we talk a lot about nothing.

I don’t need an alarm clock to wake me up in the morning, an inner timer lets me know I am ready. We have breakfast. I’m not thinking about that. We get on the bus that takes us to the pool. I’m not thinking about that either. I know my coach is telling me jokes because we are both laughing. I know I need to walk to the starting blocks because an official escorts me there. I know the spectators are loud because I can see their excitement. I know I’m supposed to wave to them because they will be announcing my name. I hear nothing. My body instinctively explodes forward on the sound of the starter. I hear a single voice now. It’s the voice of my coach encouraging me forward, driving me harder and pushing me faster than I have ever been. This is when it all comes together, all the hard work, long hours, and tedious workouts. This is the moment when I can finally share my efforts with my friends, family and fans.