I greatly enjoy the Olympics: watching them, discussing them, sitting back and appreciating the talent and work that athletes of all sports and countries bring to the world's stage. It's awesome. Now that the 2012 London games have been a permanent fixture on my TV for a week, I thought I'd share some of my observations/musings/random thoughts that may or not make sense.
First, expectations are just that-expectations. Often arbitrary and never certain, we have witnessed both triumphs and 'disappointments' (according to the media) and performances not live up to hype or speculation. For example, Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte both finishing 4th in races in their lengthy programs. One who doesn't know better may expect top athletes to always finish on top. Not to be a downer, but it is basically impossible to win all the time. Athletes who understand this have less fear and tend to be more consistent performers. In my opinion, winning gold among a performance after a "sub-par"one perhaps more rewarding than a clean sweep in the grand scheme of things. Athletes, no matter how good they are, are still human.
Also, not finishing on top all the time or winning every game/match, etc. also builds mental toughness. Rising above setbacks even on the biggest of stages is where an athlete really learns about themselves. What would we learn if we won all the time? As a younger distance runner, I had to learn how to deal with placing lower in races where I expected more-this is still a work in progress. After the disappointment fades away, subsequent wins/good performances are met with a greater sense of accomplishment and appreciation.
A sense of appreciation and gratitude for reaching the Olympic games is something I like seeing in athletes competing. When watching US sprinter Carmelita Jeter speak to the media last night, she kept mentioning how "glad she was to be there". She looked pleased just to experience her first Olympics. This appreciation helps one not be in the moment and may help performance. If you were to watch Jeter, swimmers Missy Franklin and Allison Schmitt, you will see a lot of smiles amidst medal wins. A positive attitude and finding that sense of balance and enjoyment may be part of the key to victory for many athletes.
I believe having fun competing is not just for youth and recreational sport but an essential component for athletic success. We may not always have that lights-out performance and we are tempted to skip that workout, but at the end of the day, you have to love what you do.
Some of my favorite moments so far include watching athletes I have encountered either through volunteering, racing or working with their respective teams enjoy their moments (and then some!), Oscar Pistorious' unprecedented 400m prelim this morning and an epic women's triathlon finish.