Courtesy of Brian Alexander and Champions Swim & Travel Experience
What goes through the mind of an Olympic champion while swimming the fastest anyone has ever swam? Put yourself in their position. Think of all the emotion tied into qualifying for an Olympic games. Imagine the pressure to perform as a member of the USA National team with its strong pedigree and history of producing the fastest swimmers in the world. Then to top that all off, being chosen to anchor the final of a highly competitive relay with a teammate who has the opportunity to become the most decorated Olympian of all time in a single Olympic Games. Finally, just to add a little more animosity to the race, your toughest competition has been quoted in newspapers and magazines saying they are going to “smash” you. All the numbers on paper seem to support their prediction. How would you respond to all this pressure to perform in the moment?
The approach Jason Lezak took into the 2008 Beijing Olympic 4×100 freestyle relay final, was reminiscent of his consistent approach to the way he had prepared and trained his entire swim career. He just wanted to swim his best race. That’s not to say he wasn’t aware of the competitive challenge in front of him before he jumped in to start his anchor leg. Watch the entire relay:
As Jason describes,
“There is always a competitive side where I don’t want anyone to beat me but you also need to look at parts of your performance that are within your control that you can improve.”
Champions have a desire and a will to push the boundaries of their own potential.
Even though Jason swam one of the most incredible relay legs of all time, he was still filled with a range of negative and positive thoughts. Even the best in the world aren’t always at their best. Lezak describes the evolution of his inner dialogue during the swim:
“During the race I thought there is no way I can catch this guy. He is a world record holder and then I saw him increase his lead but just then I reminded myself how good I felt and that this is great to be in the water and that my stroke feels great and I stayed positive.”
After he reminded himself of the opportunity he had in front of him to enjoy the swim, he just swam without conscious thought at all other than to get to the wall. As history has it, the results took care of themselves. Lezak had overcome a near body length deficit going into the flip-turn of the final 50 meter lap against the world record holder to help his team win gold and secure the fastest anchor leg in history!
The way champions think during a race usually doesn’t have to do with thinking at all. It’s more about awareness. They just simply race in the moment and work to swim their best swim possible.
So, what is the final take-away message the next wave of youth swimmers can learn from Jason’s swimming experience?
“Never get complacent – when you get complacent, you will not be able to accomplish the things you want to achieve.”
Complacency has a lot to do with how you train. Every training session is an opportunity to get faster. Train like you compete so you can compete like you train.
Champions Swim & Travel Experience was founded by Olympic Champions Lenny Krayzelburg and Jason Lezak, giving swimmers a chance to spend eight days interacting and learning under their tutelage. In the water the campers will get advice on improving strokes, receiving motivational guidance, video analysis, tips for pre and post race approach, nutrition, and more.
Out of the pool, campers will take part in cultural and educational experiences touring one of the oldest and most historical countries in the world. This is truly the experience of a lifetime that aims to enhance the campers’ athletic and cultural knowledge. We believe that the experience of a trip to Israel can be a building block of their cultural identity, and that by providing this opportunity to young swimmers, we can strengthen bonds with the land and people of Israel and solidarity among swimming communities worldwide.
About the author: Brian Alexander is a mental skills coach who combines eight years of experience as an Olympic level water polo athlete, a master’s degree in sport psychology, and business leadership training and coaching from The Ken Blanchard Companies. He helps athletes and performers of all ages tap into their performance potential.
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