The Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games are in full swing….and it’s time for a special episode of the SportsAid Vault Podcast! So what do we have in store for you? Well, as we know, reaching the Olympics and winning a medal for your country is often considered to be the ultimate goal for many athletes. In this episode, recorded on the morning before the Opening Ceremony, we decided to focus specifically on sports psychology and mental fitness. How do you mentally prepare for a major competition like the Olympics? How do you handle the ups and downs of high-performance sport? How can your mind take you to the podium? Our first guest on this special episode is Chris Shambrook - Performance Director of BelievePerform and Psychology Consultant for the Great Britain Rowing Team at five Olympic Games. He has been working in the world of high performance for over 25 years. His first Olympics were in Sydney in 2000….and he has played a key role for the rowing team at the Games in Athens, Beijing, London and Rio. Chris has a PhD in Psychology and is an Honorary Professor at Staffordshire University. He works closely with SportsAid and talented young athletes through the charity’s partnership with BelievePerform. Our second guest is Nekoda Davis - a British judoka who represented Team GB at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games. She competes in the -57kg category and won her first senior medal when representing Team England at the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games. She followed up that success in subsequent years with a huge array of podium finishes at Grand Prix and Grand Slam events around the world. Two of Nekoda’s biggest achievements to date have seen her secure podium finishes at the IJF World Judo Championships - claiming bronze in Budapest in 2017 before taking silver in Baku in 2018. Chris highlights the mental challenge of preparing for an Olympics and how athletes have to focus on performing independently of unique circumstances presented by the Games. He talks about creating a balance between the process and outcome, avoiding a ‘threat state’ and having a ‘challenge mindset’ to deliver your personal best. He discusses the need for self-care, the importance of training the mind and making full use of your support network. He also covers missing out on selection, acting as a travelling reserve, dealing with unexpected success and making sense of disappointments. Nekoda, who withdrew from selection for Tokyo in order to aid her rehabilitation from a concussion injury, offers insight on the mental adjustments athletes have had to make in the build-up to the Games due to the COVID-19 pandemic. She reflects on her experience at Rio 2016, how she dealt with the emotions caused by her second-round loss, and how she assessed areas for future improvement. She also examines the increased interest in psychology in recent years and how she puts greater emphasis on the journey, as well as the enjoyment of the sport, over medal success.
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