There is no shortage of clichÃ©d quotes and sayings that athletes will hear as they finalise their preparations and try to put themselves 'in the zone' for performing at their best. In my experience these quotes can be grouped into three main categories; belief, courage and success. Firstly it is essential that the athlete believes in himself, his preparation and his ability to win. Secondly he/she needs to have the courage to give it everything ('don't die wondering') and persevere when it gets hard. And thirdly he/she needs to be able to visualise his/her dream and get excited by it.
It's well worth an athlete paying attention to psychological matters. At the top level of competition there is usually very little physical difference separating the best athletes. Being mentally strong can mean the difference between making the team or missing out. When I was preparing for the biggest races of my career I would work hard on being physically and mentally strong.
I wrote down a list of five or six quotes that inspired me and in the few minutes before my race I would glance over my note. That was the time when I was most nervous and when I needed to be absolutely focused on the task ahead. It helped me to think positively and left no headspace to entertain any doubts that might have been floating around. It all worked extremely well.
But things don't always turn out how we want them to. The reality is that most of the athletes who are vying for Olympic selection will not make the team. Despite the best preparation and a positive outlook they will come away from the trials feeling anything from disappointed to devastated.
The following quote consoled me when a disappointing performance was judged harshly in the media. It was delivered by former American president Theodore Roosevelt in 1910 at the Sorbonne in Paris- an excerpt from his speech 'Citizenship and the Republic.'
"It is not the critic who counts, not the man who points out how the strong man stumbled, or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena; whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error or shortcoming; who knows the great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy course; who, at best, knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who, at worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly; so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat."
It's the original version of the modern day 'Life. Be in it,' 'Just Do It' and 'Never ever give up' with a whole heap more class. It speaks about life in general, encouraging all of us to 'dare greatly' at the risk of failing. And it wisely tells us not to value the opinions of anyone who would criticise from the sidelines when things don't go to plan.
Donna MacFarlane is married with three children and is a former Olympic athlete, now living in Western Australia.
Donna's archive of articles can be viewed at www.pressserviceinternational.org/donna-macfarlane.html