Ian Thorpe shares tips to deal with pressure at Rio

As Rio Oympics approaches, pressure and nerves will accompany athletes looking to perform well for their countries. Ian Thorpe, the Australian swimming great, shared his thoughts about dealing with pressure and medal prospects for his country, Australia.

Ian Thorpe..."It is critical you should feel the weight of the nation is behind you and spurring you on, rather than weighing you down."   -  PTI

Ian Thorpe has a word of advice for Olympic debutants at Rio 2016. “Everyone is as nervous as you are, from the first-timer to the champion. It does not matter that you are an Olympic gold medallist, [because] then you are nervous because the pressure is on you to win again.”

The Australian swimming great and double Olympian was explaining the working of an athlete’s mind at high-intensity competitions.

Thorpe’s words carry the weight of achievement, starting with a 400m freestyle world record and gold on Olympic debut in Sydney 2000. The then 17-year-old won two more goals, and four years later at Athens as a 21-year-old — competing under the weight of expectations — won two more golds.

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For Olympians battling anxiety and the burden of expectations from a nation in the run-up to Rio, he shows a way to turn an adverse situation into an advantage. “It is critical you should feel the weight of the nation is behind you and spurring you on, rather than weighing you down. Realising that they are good wishes and not expectations is what counts.” Pressure had been the Aussie’s constant companion at Sydney and Athens.

Representing a swimming superpower like Australia, he was expected to make waves at Sydney though just 17, then again as a world-beater four years later at Athens. Thorpe produced electrifying performances both times. “It is important to enjoy that experience, to realise how fortunate it is to be part of an elite group,” said Thorpe as he stressed on the pride an athlete feels as the nation’s best.

Australia’s swimming fortunes took a dip at London 2012, returning with just the freestyle relay title. Responding to a query about the reasons and whether other nations had improved, Thorpe said, “You must understand that we had increased funding in the run-up to Sydney 2000 and that benefit was carried to Athens as well.”

Thorpe added: “Going into 2008 Olympics (Beijing), performances started to fall slightly and by 2012 funding had reduced considerably. At the same time, other countries improved their funding. We had Great Britain whose funding had increased, and it performed very well. You don’t want to host an Olympic Games and not perform well.”

Thorpe predicts fifth place for Australia

Thorpe, however, is confident of Australia’s resurgence at Rio. “We will be around fifth place in the medal count (at Rio), in swimming we will be behind the Americans. I think we can win four to six gold medals, by a conservative estimate.”

Thorpe believes the women swimmers will dominate at 2016, instead of male champions like Michael Phelps earlier.

Tactful about the menace of drugs in sport and at the Olympics, Thorpe is of the view that improved testing technology and new practices are actually helping clean up sport.

“When we catch people, the conversation must change in this debate from ‘everyone must be on drugs’ to the ‘offenders are getting caught’. If that number is small, compared to the number of athletes, it is a victory.”

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