Olympic gold? It's all in your head

Olympic gold? It's all in your head

MALAYSIA - Malaysia have come close a few times but an Olympic gold medal still seems to be elusive.

We've come close on six occasions (from Razif and Jalani Sidek, Cheah Soon Kit and Yap Kim Hock, Rashid Sidek, Lee Chong Wei and Pandelela Rinong) and some argue we would have doubled our chances if squash had won the vote to be included in the 2020 Games.

While some Malaysians remain sceptical of Malaysia's chances of striking gold, one Englishman says it's perfectly doable.

In fact, his exact words during a recent interview were: "Frankly, I don't see why not".

Prof Keith George, Head of Research Institute for Sport and Exercise Sciences at the Liverpool John Moores University, says it's all about cultivating the right attitude, mental strength and support system.

It's all in your head

Prof George says winning at the Olympics is all about the ability to cope with stress, and be motivated as well as highly attentive.

"People say winning a gold medal has nothing to do with anything neck downwards; it's all to do with here," says Prof George pointing to his head.

The professor was in Kuala Lumpur a few months ago at the invitation of the National Sports Institute (NSI).

Prof George's recent work and research involves cardiovascular physiology with a focus on ultra-endurance athletes. He has worked in various clubs and at events including the Western States Endurance Run (California, US) as well as junior athletes at the Premiership Rugby League in England. His cardiac scanning work also includes Premier League football clubs and rugby teams.

With all this research, Prof George sees the potential where most of us see only doubt.

He cites the case of Team Great Britain which had a fantastic outing at their home Olympics last year, winning 29 gold medals from sports like cycling (eight golds), rowing and athletics (four golds each).

They weren't always this good, he explains.

At the Atlanta Games in 1996, Britain finished 36th on the medal tally after coming away with a solitary gold medal from rowing - Sir Matthew Pinsent and Sir Steve Redgrave in the men's coxless pair. It was Britain's worst showing since Helsinki in 1952 where they also won a solitary gold in equestrian.

So what was the catalyst that brought about this 180-degree turn?

Prof George attributes it to sports research and science, and a little thing called mind over matter.

Marathon runners are familiar with the term "hitting the wall". It's when you noticeably slow down and that little voice in your head tells you to give up. And, this is exactly when you shouldn't give up but push harder. It is well documented that the human body is able to withstand a lot of pain and pressure - especially when the adrenaline kicks in.

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