Nat's Olympic Journey
LONDON – HERE WE COME!
We did it. And pictures speak a thousand words. So this is what it looks like and feels like to qualify for a 5th Olympic games.
An explosion of emotion was how I described winning Gold on Bondi beach and I would have to go as far to say that qualifying on the side of Fuzhou River in China, playing against China in front of 3000 Chinese fans, was as good of a feeling! The pressures, physically, mentally, emotionally and financially this time around made it so much sweeter.
We had played in Russia and Italy prior to flying into China to play in a winner take all event. It was a new format for qualifying this time around. It is a little complicated, so if you would like to know all the details then go to www.teamnat.com.au (videos and look for qualifying)
In summary we had to play with another Aussie team against other countries in a Davis Cup like format. (that’s why 4 of us are in the pic on the podium) Our first match was against Chinese Taipei, then Thailand and last round and the final was against China. All 4 of us played so great. Our other Aussie team (both girls only 18 years old) exceeding expectations so look out for them in Rio 2016. Taliqua Clancy and MariaFeArtacho will be the future of our sport.
It is the best feeling to make the Australian Olympic team. We have been working so hard to get on the team and now the fun starts, booking flights for family and friends, accommodation, tickets (this is a challenge, as they are sold out, so my group of about 20 will have to get good at scalping!) I take on all this because I am a planner, and love the challenge of piecing it all together. So that is why I think it is fun!
We arrive in London July 21st, after a 2 week preparation in Germany and Austria. Once we get to London Tamsin and I stay in the village, which is the coolest place on earth. It is like living in Disneyland for a month. It will take a few days to get to know where everything is. Like the dining hall, the gym, the transport hall so we can get to and from horse Guards Parade (the amazing location for the beach volleyball). Once we have settled in we get down to business. Focusing on winning medals.
July 27th is the opening ceremony and the beach volleyball will start day 1. So check your guides on Chanel 9 and Foxtel to catch our games. Oh and if I am lucky, you may just see me carry the flag into the opening ceremony (but I wont find that out until the night before….so stay tuned). I have walked behind 4 men in my time as an Olympian. So it is definitely time for a woman! That’s my story and I am sticking to it J
So practice your cheering…Aussie, Aussie, Aussie, Oi, Oi, Oi!!!!
Going for Gold!
Yours on the sand,
Olympics athletes hold a standard for themselves so high and are so obsessed with excellence thatit keeps them constantly reaching for success.
The quest to be Olympic athlete is a physical, mental and spiritual challenge like no other. The levels of commitment, dedication and resolve needed are relentless.
So where does it all start?
It all starts with a dream. I was 8 years old, as I sat in front of the TV watching Lisa Curry win the 1982 Commonwealth Games Gold medal in the 100 m freestyle. She got out of the pool, put on her green and gold track suit, stood atop of the podium, gold medal around her neck, with tears streaming down her face singing Advance Australia Fair and I said, “I want to do that!”
30 years on I have been to 4 Olympic Games -
Atlanta 1196 – Bronze with Kerri Pottharst
Sydney 2000 – Gold with Kerri Pottharst
Athens 2004 – 4th with Nicole Sanderson
Beijing 2008 – 5th with Tamsin Barnett
London 2012 will be my 5th and final Olympic Games and I will be the only female Aussie athlete compete in 5.
So much goes into the making of an Olympic Athlete. The overnight success that you see on the TV has come from years and years of blood, sweat and tears. I have been competing at an international level for 20 years. It has consumed my life. Everyday for 20 years I have rolled out of bed, put on my bikini and chased a ball around a sandpit. I can liken my career to the running of a marathon, and I feel like I am now entering the stadium and rounding the home straight. I can see the finish line…at Horse Guards Parade in London!
At the time of writing Tamsin and I are still in the last stages of the qualification process and that requires us to compete in Russia, Italy and maybe China (depending on our results in Russia and Italy) It is quiet a complicated process and if you would like to know more about it you can go to my website www.teamnat.com.au. I have explained it in detail in a video blog.
So at this point in the journey the most important things are – (I have made them easy to remember as they all start with C)
Communication, Coach, Commitment, Consistency, Composure, Clarity of mind and Certainty.
The hard slog on the sand and in the gym is done, it is now time to focus on the precision and power of our skills and the ability to call up our performance on demand. This is where the gold medallists separate from the rest. The volume of training decreases yet the intensity of each session stays extremely high. The coach is trying to replicate at every training session the pressure that will be looming when we play for the gold medal. It is difficult reproduce the high levels of emotional stress at training, but that is what makes a good coach. And my coach Steve Anderson (who I have had for 15 years) is the best.
Another way to help with this is using visualization and imagery. Seeing it all play out first in your minds eye exactly the way you want it to unfold on the day etches the pictures and feeling into your brain and body. Now it is matter of hearing the whistle blow or getting to the start line and playing out the physical manifestation of your well rehearsed mental game. (This needs just as much training and understanding as the physical side, but I don’t think athletes or coaches give it enough credit.) I saw myself winning the Gold in Sydney so many times that when I stepped onto the top of the podium I took a look around with a huge smile on face knowing I had seen it all before….manymanymany times!
The visualization never stops, now we just have to continue to let our performance shine through.
High pressure and heat and over a long period of time is how diamonds are made. This is what it is like in the Olympic arena. The nerves, anxiety and pressure. Whoever manages this the best generally has the best chance winning. We all have nerves,the trick is to get the butterflies to fly in formation and not all over the place!
During the Olympics you generally only see the athletes on the TV, but behind the scenes there is a massive team that has played a crucial part in getting us there. Family, friends, medical team(doctor, massage therapist, physiotherapist , chiropractor, acupuncturist, nutritionist), sponsors, coaches (of which I have 3; Volleyballcoach- Steve, Life/high performance – Doug and Strength and conditioningcoach - Phil)
I am often asked what sacrifices I have made. I can honestly say that I don’t see them as sacrifices; I see them as choices, conscious choices to do things that are going to help me achieve my dream. It is an easy question. Is this going to take me closer to, or further away from my dream? I don’t tend to choose the ones that take me further away! If your reasons for wanting it are strong enough, it is easy to “sacrifice”.
My training schedule at home –
Monday – Double day on sand– 2 sand sessions – 1 technical, one game play
- bike session (interval sprints) and injury preventions exercises for knees and shoulders
Tuesday - Sand training and gym at Fitness first
Wednesday – Pilates and physiotherapy
Thursday – double sand session again
Friday – sand training and gym at Fitness First
Saturday – bike session and injury prevention
Sunday – Sleep and go to movies!
My training schedule on tour -
Sunday – fly to new city
Monday – sand training and weights (in the hotel gym!)
Tuesday – OFF – recovery in the pool and stretch
Wednesday – Saturday – Competition
Sunday – Fly to new city
Best thing about being a beach volleyball – travel the world and play on the best beaches.
Worst thing – having to put sunscreen on everyday.
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