Mental Toughness Makes Champions - Mind Training Tips for Swimmers
Mat Luebbers

Alex Popov and Kieren Perkins have several things in common; both are trying to win the Olympics for the 3rd time in a row, and both a true champions who have earned the title of being 'mentally tough'. Only a month ago I was reading how Popov was meant to be going through huge motivation problems trying to get himself up for a 3rd Olympic Games, and yet a few days ago he set a new world record to put the world on notice that he is not a spent force.

What makes these champions so good? Usually it is a whole bunch of small reasons rather than a couple of big ones - and some of these reasons you couldn't even put your finger on. But one of these mysterious 'intangible' qualities they both possess is mental toughness. Mental toughness means to have the ability to pull out your best when your back is to the wall, and when everyone else is counting you out - you are counting yourself in. Mental toughness is persistence.

To simply never, ever give up, no matter how many people say you are 'washed up'. Not long ago Kieren Perkins was considered a very outside chance of even making the Australian Olympic Team, with the names of Thorpe and Hackett making all the headlines - and yet, surprise surprise, he's there again. Why? Because even though others doubted his ability to do it again, he never did. He would definitely have gone through some rough times, however, when he would have wondered "am I going to make it?" but in the end he never, ever gave up on himself. He overcame the doubts and fears and pressed on anyway, proving many of the 'experts' (who had written him off) to be wrong, as only a champion can do. It's inspirational stuff that puts shivers down your spine when you think about it.

The same can be said of Popov, who apparently went through some motivation problems earlier, but what did he do? Give up? No, he came back and showed the world what he can do. That is mental toughness, and that is what makes a true champion. I am not saying that champions never doubt themselves. They do - but only at times. But they manage to come up with enough belief in themselves to ride through it, overcome it, and beat it once and for all.

So if ever your belief is wavering, don't worry. All champions waver at times, in a sport as demanding as swimming it is virtually impossible not to - but the fact is, you can ride through it, and beat it. It doesn't matter how many people write you off as long as you believe in yourself. When it comes down to it, your own opinion of yourself must ALWAYS be the most important. Do not ever let anyone else's opinion of you be more important than your own! That's what champions do, they simply will not take 'no' for an answer - they always manage to find a way to get 'yes'.

Always remember, "whatever you can conceive, and believe, you can achieve".

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