You hear it all the time: “I’ve spent the last four years working towards this.” The words that most Olympic and Paralympic athletes say when talking about the upcoming Games. Most recently it was London and we were all saying it – talking about the level of commitment we have for our sport and the amount of time that we’ve spent preparing.
In my case, I wasn’t able to say that. Simply because I only got into the sport of Paracycling 3 years ago. It was during the Beijing Paralympics of 2008 that I got inspired to go out and start training again, but my first competition in National colours wasn’t until 2010. Since then it’s been a lot of hard work and in recent years, a meteoric rise to the top.
During those three years I worked hard. In the beginning I held a full-time job and trained when I could find the time. Later on, when the company I worked for went bankrupt I decided to become a full-time athlete. I improved drastically once I was able to focus solely on training.
Last year, in the lead-up to the Games, I spent all my time preparing JUST to compete in London. But even with unlimited hours in the day to train, there are still many obligations and distractions. Even simple things like writing these blog pieces takes time away from your focus. I still do it gladly, but it’s also still ‘work’.
But London is over and I now have my eye on Rio. If all goes to plan, I’ll be there spouting the well-versed mantra: “I’ve spent the last 4 years preparing for this”. But unlike the last 3 years, I’ll actually mean it.
Going into London my focus was split. I was coming off a phenomenal year, winning two World Titles and had spent a lot of time trying to leverage that into some publicity for myself. To some degree winning had lead me to believe I was better than I actually was and I probably let my foot off the gas pedal at times. I probably should have been more focused and trained harder (smarter) than I did. I’ve admitted it before – mistakes were made and they cost me medals.
|A few more of these would be nice|
But the next fours years will be different. There are many World Championships to race in over the coming years, but win or lose – my goal is to win in Rio. Don’t get me wrong – I want more World Titles. But if I DO win again, I won’t let that make me overconfident.
Additionally, I have changed my approach to training. It’s now not something I have to do. It’s something I WANT to do. I embrace it. I look forward to it. And when I’m doing it – I’m 100% committed to doing it. That means training harder over the winter than ever before. Not just this year, but every year. It means going away week after week to warmer climates so that I can get the long days in on the bike. And when at home, it means suffering daily on the turbo trainer to avoid the cold and ice on the roads.
Winnng Paralympic medals can’t just be a hobby – it has to be an obsession. You have to sacrifice more than you think to not just get there, but to WIN there. If you’re not 100% committed, you might as well go home now. See you in Rio.