Over the last year we have had the opportunity to collaborate with five Olympians during their preparation for Rio 2016. Samoan sprinter Jeremy Dodson; Canadian sprinter Akeem Haynes; multi-sport Lacey Henderson; American sprinter Muna Lee, and Irish pole vaulter Tori Pena, also known as Team Athletigen, have given us unique insight to their training, what it feels like to be an Olympian, and what they’re most looking forward to post-Rio. With the countdown to the Opening Ceremonies of the Games of the XXXI Olympiad at 100 days, we’re checking in with Jeremy, Akeem, Lacey, Muna, and Tori to learn more about the daily grind that is to be an Olympian.
Athletigen athlete and two-time Olympian Jeremy Dodson knows a thing or two about mental toughness. When asked about preparing for Rio 2016, he put it quite simply: “Business as usual.”
“I want to be a good influence as an athlete, so everything I do this season is strictly focused on those two weeks in August. If a task does not align with the goal, it has to either be placed on hold, or thrown out altogether.”
Dodson credits his success on his unwavering commitment.
“It might not sound fun right now, but neither does losing on a huge stage like the Olympics.”
It is that dedication that can often times be overlooked. While the world celebrates summer sport for 17 days in August, it takes a lifetime of training and discipline to qualify.
“I think a big misconception is that we only train the year of the Olympics,” Haynes explains, “this is years of effort, work, determination and sacrifices.”
Another misconception? “That we make a lot of money,” Peña adds, “put simply, most don’t.”
Athletes preparing for the Olympic games are not immune to the mental wear and tear of a someone under heavy stress.
“There's really no way to be prepared for the feeling of making the Olympic team,” says Lee, who is heading to her third Olympic games, “you feel emotions that you’ve never felt before. You need to train to be consistent and not to panic, because some things may come as a surprise.”
Some members of Team Athletigen have found alternative means to deal with the pressure that comes with competing on the sport world’s greatest stage.
“I have an excellent sport psychologist here in Phoenix, Marc Strickland,” Henderson notes, “he is great with performance prep as well as competition debriefs.”
Peña, who also sees Strickland regularly during training, is an advocate for sports psychologists.
“Preparing mentally is a huge part of every sport, but especially pole vault. I was in quite a funk with my vaulting, and my confidence was low. Within a few weeks [with Strickland] I was starting to feel like myself again.”
As for the post-Olympic glow, feelings of seeing family and taking vacations were shared among Team Athletigen. However, Lee is quick to remind us that “after the olympics, there are still races to be won.”
Business as usual.