Visualization

Vernon smiles and then, as motivation is one of her key themes, she continues. “Looking back, I didn’t motivate myself in a good way for that race. I motivated myself by imagining the Chinese flag going up the Olympic flagpole. They were our main rivals and that was how I pushed myself. Then I’m standing on the podium in Beijing. The Chinese flag is in the middle and I’m living my nightmare. Since I’ve retired I see things differently – but a part of me will always think: ‘That was your chance, and you blew it.’”

Fascinated by this Guardian piece on Annie Vernon and her book, Mind Games: Determination, Doubt and Lucky Socks: An Insider’s Guide to the Psychology of Elite Athletes.  Pumping yourself up by visualizing your worst nightmare does sound kind of depleting.

We had one meeting several months later where we analysed our splits and established that the Chinese had a phenomenal last 500m. Did we ever confront exactly what went on the year before? No. This week was the first time Fran and I spoke in detail about it. I asked Fran: ‘How do you feel about Beijing? How do you explain to yourself what happened?’ My take was that we were so desperate to win we arrived there terrified we might mess up. That tension affected us.”

Vernon is at peace now and able to see a fresh outcome. “In lots of ways Beijing led me to Mind Games because I wanted to do something in elite sport that left me feeling positive. I didn’t want that to be the defining feature of my career or my life. Maybe one day, rather than the woman who stood on the podium in Beijing wishing she was anywhere but there, I’ll be known more as the author of Mind Games.”

 

 



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