We get a monthly email from Marnie McBean, 3x Olympic Champion
Rower. It is usually pretty good and I thought I would share this
one with everyone....
July 1 2012. Happy Canada Day!
you will go to London for YOUR Olympics. They will be different
than anything you've ever done including World Championships, World
Cups and other Olympic Games. How they effect - and affect you - is
up to you. Everyone is different and being different is just fine.
Today I'd like to share with you some advice from the experiences
of two incredible competitors, Christine Nesbitt and Clara
year ago, I asked World and Olympic Champion Christine Nesbitt to
recount what it was like going to the Vancouver Olympics for her
speed skating competitions. I had heard that the atmosphere and
noise in the London Velodrome would be similar to that of the
speedskating oval in Richmond and I wanted to pass on any tips to
Tara Whitten, Zack Bell and our other track cyclists. Her message
got back to me a bit late for their test event - but I believe the
experience she recounted can surely resonate with you
stuck me in her message was how the energy from the Games - the
competition, crowds and the media - resonated with her differently
than her teammate, Clara Hughes. Even though both women would win
medals at those Games, Christine realized that the way she needed
to handle the Olympic energy had to be HER way - not Clara's or
anyone else's. Some are inspired by the Olympic energy and ride it
like a wave - some people need to separate it out and stay focused
on their own very specific (and very well trained!) task at
Christine and Clara's permission, I've copied parts of notes
they've both written to me. Clara's note is part of an incredible
message that she wrote to the Canadian 2010 Olympic Team after
racing her first of two events, having just carried the Canadian
flag at the Opening Ceremony.
(Note- Vancouver was Christine's 2nd Olympics,
she had won a medal in 2006. In Vancouver she was favoured to win a
medal in 2 or 3 of her 4 events)
remember feeling so overwhelmed by the crowd that I wanted to cry
before my first 500m race. (We race two of them. They
take a combined time.) When the gun went off, all I could think was
"use it", but if you're thinking it, you're not doing it...
had spoken to Clara Hughes before my races, and she is a different
kind of athlete from me. She had already raced the 3000m, and
she said that the roar of the crowd propelled her and gave her
extra energy and willpower...that kind of thing. She really knows
how to get that magical extra 'je ne sais quoi' they say the
Olympics brings. I found, this was not true for me.
second 500m was much better; I was more relaxed and enjoying it.
Also, I didn't feel the pressure (because the 500m is not one) of
my specialty distances.
the 1000m came, I thought I had gotten my nerves out, but when you
know it's 'your' distance, nerves will be there no matter what. I
wasn't really prepared for this. I had never gone into an Olympic
race being the number one, hands down favourite. It was not
fun at all.
was tight, and over thinking everything in the first 600m. I was
analyzing how my race was going, judging off of my pair (who
actually had a terrible race, but I thought it was good, so I
misjudged what I was doing--not the right place to focus). I
remember crossing the line for my 600m split time with one lap to
go, and I swear I heard the crow go silent. I knew I was way
off pace. At this point, I finally brought the race back into my
own hands, into my own mind, and under my own power. And this
is what gave me the ability that day, despite (what was to me) a
disastrous race, to win.
I gave you basically a summary of my race, and how it didn't go
well. But I think it all stemmed from the crowd, and
underestimating my own nerves under that intense sound, and
pressure, and energy. Since the Vancouver Olympics, I have
vowed to myself that no racing, not even the next Olympics, will be
so un-enjoyable and so stressful. I have been working on
finding something that makes me smile. When people say 'relax',
that's not helping me. I'm a very intense competitor, and I
love my focus and game face. But I'm learning, I can still crack a
smile 22 minutes before my race, or when I'm gliding around the ice
7 minutes before I race, or when my coach and I make eye contact
for that last time before going to the start line. A brief
smile or laugh helps me relax my shoulders, and lets me feel that
biting pressure of my blades into the ice. It allows me to
relax, to feel the things that I have worked so hard for, and
remind me of how confident I am in my ability and in the program I
follow. That energy from the crowd can really propel you - I
understand that now. But for me, I need to feel this mini
relaxation before and then that energy can pour into my race.
Nesbitt, 2010 Olympic Champion in the 1000m. Since she
'smile' she is World Champion in the 1000m, 1500m and has a
the Team Pursuit.
I competed yesterday and it was incredible. I have never
raced within a tunnel of energy like that. I felt like my
heart was open and all of the cheers, screams, cowbells and drive
of the crowd went in and propelled me forward. Seriously!
What I really want to share, however, is the perspective I had
after the opening. Being chosen to carry the flag was a huge honor.
It was exciting. It was nice. It was beautiful.
But...... and this is a big 'but'....... the feeling I had
while leading the team was more a realization than anything.
I realized that even an honor this huge, this special, well,
in the end, it does NOT compare to racing. It does not
compare to competing. It does not compare to having the
chance to perform and to push myself and to have the opportunity to
challenge myself, to face the deep down fears that we all have as
athletes when it is game time.
Carrying the flag made me realize that I GET TO RACE AT THE
OLYMPICS and that this alone is something that will never, ever
compare to anything else in life. It made me hungry to
compete. It made me aware of the chance I had and have in
these Games to put myself out there and max myself out. It
made racing yesterday and the thought of racing again next week
seem like the greatest thing in the world. When these Games are
over, for me, as for at least a few of us, it is all
over. Nothing in life will ever feel this way again.
So what I am saying, I think, is do NOT LOSE THESE MOMENTS that
you have in front of you. Go into these events with a big,
open heart, and let the energy of this nation and all Canadians
inside. You will receive an inspiration unimaginable.
Don't get me wrong, I was not in the oval waving, smiling or
conversing with the crowd: I wanted to rip someone's head off I was
so hungry to race. But I let the whoops and the hollers feed
me. It was amazing.
You will have many honors and special events in your life, but
nothing will be like being an Olympic athlete and competing.
May you all have wings that allow you to soar,
Hughes, 2006 Olympic Champion, 6x Olympic medalist and only athlete
to have multiple medals at both summer and winter games. Clara will
be part of Canada's Road Cycling team in London 2012
who you need to be at the Games to get the most from yourself and
your team. There is no right or wrong way to be an Olympian - stay
true to who you have been to get this far - it's been working
Between now and the 2012 Olympic Games I will be sending out a
monthly email. Think of it as a talking point; you may agree with
me, maybe disagree… It may serve as a heads up or reminder to some
ups and downs that are a natural point of believing that you can
more than just go, more than just compete, but compete at your very
BEST at the Olympics. My goal will never be to add to your stress,
but to help you wear it well.
Three time Olympic Champion - Rowing