A Mountain View for High Performance

When you think of athletes- are they operating in a conscious way when competing?

Take for example – athlete Canadian rower Adam van Koeverden – Gold medal winner of the 500m Kayak race at the 2004 summer Olympics in Athens.

Adam has maintained a status of excellence by winning19 World Cup gold medals between Olympics including every single 500 metre race. According to many, Adam was considered to be a ‘shoe in’ for the Gold medal in the 500m race and a strong contender in the 1000m at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing.
The Olympics are chock full of stories of surprise defeats. Adam’s story is a bit different being that he was the flag-bearer for Canada in Beijing. The media loves to report of a ‘curse’ on whoever carries the flag in opening ceremonies. And there is good evidence to support this notion of a flag-bearer’s “curse”. Decathlete Michael Smith (1992 Barcelona) was forced to withdraw with a hamstring injury, and figure skater Kurt Browning (1994 Lillehammer) finished a disappointing fifth. Charmaine Crooks (1996 Atlanta) ran to a disappointing 18th-place showing in the 800 metres, and moguls skier Jean-Luc Brassard (1998 Nagano) ended up fourth.

The job of carrying the Maple Leaf is assigned to only those athletes that are recognizable, respected and successful and 26 year old Adam fits the bill in all categories. Adam’s coach commented that it’s Adam’s hard work ethic and his ability to tolerate a lot of pain and discomfort that makes him a star.

So, what was going on between Adam’s conscious – unconscious alignment on a Friday in August 2008 in Bejing that lead him to an 8th place finish in the race he was expected to take home a gold medal in?

When interviewed after the disappointing loss, Adam was quoted as saying “Hitting the wall, being really tired is one thing. But watching guys I never lose to go by me, the first thing that went through my mind was, ‘What have I done?’ Crossing the finish line, I think I said it out loud: ‘What did I just do? Was I completely out of it the whole way? Was I hypnotized for three-and-a-half minutes?’ That’s what it felt like.”

Adam says that with almost every race, he doesn’t know if he can finish or not. That’s how hard he pushes himself out of his comfort zone.

The 2008 Olympics have very well taught Adam more about being an athlete than any other competition could possibly teach. A friend was quoted as saying, “Our time in the valleys helps us truly appreciate the views from the mountain tops.”

Be fortunate to have had some great mountaintop views in your life, and know there are more to come – nothing helps you appreciate victory more than failure.

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