Starting tomorrow, for 16 days, the most extraordinary athletes from around the world will be racing in 306 events, in 28 sports.
As you marvel over what an athletically fit and trained body, with a powerful mind, can do on race day, keep in mind that this select group of the population is not unlike you.
Olympic athletes are not superhuman.
They are not machines.
They do not have magical powers or special talents that cannot be trained or obtained.
They are normal people with an immense drive to pursue athletic goals, backed by a little good luck and good genetics on their side.
Olympic athletes have characteristics that help them excel and these qualities can be attained by anyone who wants to excel in sports and in life.
While the Olympics are a great source of inspiration as to what the human body can do, the Olympics remind us all that it is possible to turn your dreams into a reality.
Becoming an Olympic athlete is more than just training hard.
Olympics athlete must get into the best physical and mental shape possible AND have great technical or mechanical luck, train and compete with a mentally strong mind and successfully manage a roller coaster of emotions appropriately, all while not getting injured, overtrained, burnt out or sick.
Life is full of distractions and setbacks and being an athlete is not easy.
Despite the risks, Olympic athletes believe that anything is possible to go "faster, higher, stronger".
Let’s look at some of the many qualities of Olympic athletes so that you can decide if you carry these characteristics in your own pursuit for athletic success or if you need to make a change in how you physically and/or mentally prepare for your sport.
Sometimes it can feel like the odds are against you and nothing is going right. Perhaps you are in a string of constant bad luck.
Olympic athletes know how to deal with difficult situations and see setbacks as an opportunity to explore something new – the opportunity to overcome the odds.
Sure, it is easy to maintain a positive mindset when things are going well and to get upset when there are obstacles in your way, but Olympic athletes know how to stay incredibly focused, even under the most stressful and frustrating moments in life and in sport.
It’s easy to assume that Olympic athletes are only focused on winning. While a competitive spirit is extremely important, winning isn’t everything. If winning is the only way to be happy, it’s easy to lose focus on other important components that define “success.” Often these small details, when achieved, bring winning moments. When Olympic athletes are "in the zone" in training and racing, they are not focused on the outcome but simply, staying focused on the process.
Olympic athletes maintain great composure, win or lose.
And regardless of personal problems, fatigue, lack of motivation or difficult unforeseen circumstances, successful athletes find ways to stay focused (often with the help of sport psychologists) to maintain good excitement and energy to simply do their best, without only obsessing about the outcome.
Genetics, time and money can only take you so far in sports. If an athlete wants to excel to a high level, she/he has decided to make success a priority. Commitment extends beyond suffering in training, being strict with the diet and checking off workouts but it includes focusing on all the little things, like nutrient timing, mental strength, proper gear and smart training, to ensure that every little detail is not overlooked.
Olympic athletes know that one person doesn’t make the athlete. It takes a team approach to when creating world class performances.
Olympic athletes do not want to be good at what they do but instead, they want to be great. Olympic athletes live this commitment daily and are willing to put in the work, for as long as it takes, to get to where they want to be.
Olympic athletes know how important it is to train the mind, just as hard as they train the body. An Olympic athlete has visualized success dozens and dozens of times, well before race day.
It’s very easy to get distracted when you are an athlete. Olympic athletes know their sweet spots as to how to best get into the “zone” in training and on race day. Whether it’s before and during a very hard workout or before the most important day of their athletic career, Olympic athletes know how to stay mentally strong but physically relaxed and to avoid distractions.
Olympic athletes draw attention as to what is within their control, can easily let go of distractions, they do not dwell on the not-so-great workouts and they know that the next workout is the next best opportunity to improve.
When it comes down to it, the only day that really matters is race day and because of this, Olympic athletes keep a sense of calm, no matter what is thrown in their way in training.
5. Internal motivation
While Olympic athletes may feel pressure from coaches, teammates, friends, family, the community and sponsors, a true champion trains and competes only for him/herself. Motivation, drive, direction, passion and focus all come from within.
When an Olympic athlete has a goal, she selects this goal because it is exactly what she wants to achieve and is willing to work for that goal.
And when an athlete has a setback, the athlete herself is the only one who can decide if putting in the work to rehab is “worth it”.
Seeing that motivation comes and goes, setbacks will occur, injuries will happen and low moments can make it hard to train, many athletes use sport psychologists to work through the emotions and external pressures to be “the best” as there is constant pressure to perform, even during the most difficult of days.
Olympic athletes know that there are many consequences when taking risks, especially as it related to training the body. It takes courage when making sacrifices in life, when training when tired or fatigued and when training among the toughest competition, when everyone is watching.
It takes courage to stick to your plan and to not focus on what everyone else is doing and it takes courage to believe in yourself, even when you encounter obstacles.
Above all, it takes courage and confidence to push the body and Olympic athletes are brave - they push the body, mentally and physically, to test limits and to break through personal physical and mental barriers.
7. Love for the sport
Olympic athletes dedicate years, if not a lifetime, to a sport. To accomplish anything of value, in sport or in life, it is necessary to love what you do.
When training becomes a chore or something you check off just to make others happy, it's time to evaluate if you are really in-it to win-it.
When passion subsides, training becomes a chore and distractions make it more difficult to stay focused and consistent with training.
Many times, a setback or obstacle reminds you how much you love your sport and being an athlete. Never take a day for granted as there could be a time when you can’t do what you can do with your body.
Wherever you place your attention, your energy will follow.
Although Olympic athletes have their low moments, with a drop in motivation, body and mind exhaustion and poor focus making it difficult to train, there’s always a hunger to excel, with a fire that fuels their passion, to be the best athlete that they can be.