A number of weeks in the past, I used to be on a course with my outdated psychology tutor, reflecting on the psychological belongings that create a gold medal-winner. So many parts go into making a sporting champion – genetics, probability, having the appropriate coach and the appropriate alternatives – however, surely, one in all my strongest traits was my psychological power. On the course, I did their psychological profiling take a look at and my tutor stated that my outlook is what they name “contained”.
It means I’m very middle-of-the-road. I don’t get overly excited by massive successes and I don’t get overly disillusioned by nice lows, I’m ready to carry on the mid-ground, it doesn’t matter what occurs. That strategy to the heptathlon put me in actually good stead for navigating championships. If issues went fallacious – like two poor throws within the shot-put on my manner to my first world title in 2009 – I used to be ready to bounce again and carry out when it mattered, in that occasion nailing a personal greatest with my remaining throw.
To have the option to discover one other degree when issues go fallacious and switch it round saved me motivated and profitable for all these years. At this Olympic Games in Tokyo, like none different earlier than it, psychological fortitude goes to be important to flourish. These previous few days earlier than competing are so nerve-racking. Hopefully, you are ready, injury-free and prepared to go. You are in that heightened surroundings, pondering: “I just do not want to get ill, I do not want anything to go wrong.”
The danger of Covid, in fact, makes all the pieces worse. Test optimistic and your entire Games may very well be over. On high of your whereabouts for drug testing, Covid presents one more problem that you’re individually answerable for. I keep in mind forward of London 2012, my brother-in-law popped spherical to our home simply earlier than the Olympics with a chilly, and I used to be like, “Matt! Why are you here? Go away!” He felt terrible afterwards. But as an athlete, you might be so delicate to something that might jeopardise all the pieces that you’ve labored so arduous for.
Ahead of 2012, I used to be beneath stress to relocate to Lee Valley and prepare with the opposite athletes there. For somebody like me who thrived off routine and consistency in all the pieces I did, this transfer was anathema to me. It was Charles van Commenee, the UK Athletics efficiency director on the time, who needed me to transfer and it did create some waves. He needed to be sure that I delivered a medal however, for my part, making modifications at such a late stage may probably end in catastrophe.
So, I stayed sturdy, caught to my weapons and trusted in what I already had. Then there was the stress of the large highlight that an Olympic Games brings. Going into 2012, I used to be identified within the athletics world, however I had by no means been to an Olympics and skilled that world degree of profile. An Olympics is watched by everybody – sports activities followers and non-sports followers alike. For a house Olympics, that degree of stress ramped up a notch additional nonetheless as I used to be dubbed the face of the Games. Where we lived, there was an enormous billboard of me on the aspect of the fish and chip store. There was no manner I may nip in for a bag of chips after that!
My face was actually plastered everywhere. It was so surreal. You simply had to discover the humour in it in order that it didn’t grow to be overwhelming. I keep in mind being on the airplane flying into Heathrow from our GB coaching camp in Portugal and there was an huge picture of me on the flight path. My team-mates have been all observing it. I simply had to snicker. Then, after we acquired to the Olympic village, we have been placing our baggage away and Prince William, Prince Harry and Kate Middleton turned up. We all ran down to meet them, and Harry stated: “Gosh, you’ve got a lot of pressure on you!” It was probably the most weird time of my life.
All of that build-up created a rigidity that gave me legs like jelly on the morning of the primary occasion. I keep in mind taking place to breakfast and my physio workforce, Alison Rose and Derry Suter, have been laughing and joking whereas I used to be making an attempt not to be sick consuming my cereal. Before I went on the observe, Chell [coach Toni Minichiello] stated a couple of phrases of encouragement. He was not all the time the most effective with phrases, however in that second – and all through the entire of the competitors – he was spot on. I keep in mind him saying: “You’ve got 80,000 friends out there. They’re all willing you to do well.”