What It Takes To Be An Olympic Athlete


Andrew Lauterstein, Australian swimmer, triple Olympic medalist and Chōsen ambassador.

With just under a month until the beginning of the Olympic Games in Rio, an Olympic medalist describes the psychology behind competing at this level.

The Rio Olympic Games is less than a month away, with the opening ceremony tabled for the 5 August. The event this year has been marred by controversy; last year’s Zika virus epidemic is still prevalent. Several high-profile athletes have announced they will not attend due to the danger of contagion, including Scottish golfer Rory McIlroy and Brazilian football forward Rivaldo Ferreira. On top of that, the Brazilian government announced last month that it was in a “state of public calamity” due to a financial crisis brought on – partly – by low oil prices. The city’s crime rate is high but, with little public funding from a cash-strapped government, the police force and other public services may be limited.

But despite all of this, the Olympic Games remains the world’s biggest sporting event. Competing takes single-mindedness, determination and hours and hours of practice. For the men and women who will be competing this year, these coming weeks will be about nothing else.

Billionaire speaks to Andrew Lauterstein, an Australian swimmer and three-time Olympic medallist, and now an ambassador for adventure holiday company Chōsen, about what it takes mentally and physically to qualify for the Olympic Games.

What were the sacrifices you had to make while training?
I never really felt I had to make ‘sacrifices’ in my sporting career. I preferred to think of ‘sacrifices’ as ‘choices’, and I chose to do certain things in order to achieve my goals. As far as choices go, these were made on a daily basis and revolved around rest, recovery, diet and training.

What was the training schedule like?
I was training at the pool for 10 sessions as week, supported by three gym sessions a week, one spin class and a Pilates and yoga session each week. This was supplemented with one or two massages a week and seeing a physiotherapist/chiropractor once or twice a week.

What was your diet like?
I think I actually eat ‘cleaner’ and take more notice of my diet now than when I was swimming professionally. I guess with the amount of training I was doing, I could get away with eating a bit of junk just as long as I was refuelling and giving myself enough energy from food to keep up with my training schedule.

What are the psychological challenges of being an Olympian?
Swimming has taught me to focus on the end goal and visualise myself winning. Focus and visualisation have become second nature to me, and something that helps me in shaping my life. Being an Olympian means that you need to trust the process, handle the pressure — often the most pressure an athlete will endure will be self-inflicted — and not worry about what your competitors are doing so you can focus on yourself. It’s as much about the psychological side as the physical.

What was the high of your career, and what were the lows?
I was stoked when I won three medals in the Beijing 2008 Games. Two of them were in relays with some of my best friends and the third was in the 100m butterfly in one of the great races in Olympic history. One of the lows in my career was getting sick in India at the Commonwealth Games and having to watch the events I was aiming to win. The two years following these games were also very difficult for me as I struggled to find my best performance, and missed the next two national teams. It meant that ultimately I didn’t qualify for the London 2012 Olympics, prior to retiring.

What would you advise budding athletes?
Set your own alarm and pace for your training schedule, and work hard. Most importantly, laugh a lot and have fun with what you’re doing.

How do you feel about it all now you are no longer competing?
I’m proud of everything that I achieved. I got to travel the world doing what I loved with my best friends. I loved the training, the racing and all the choices I made in working towards my goals. I walked away from the sport without any regrets and some incredible medals and memories.

What is an average day for you now?
My early-morning training sessions made me an early riser for life. I usually wake up at 5am for a CrossFit session and then head to the swim school I set up, New Wave Swim School, to get set up for the day. I then head to my swimwear brands office, Engine Swim, for the rest of the working day. At the end of the day, I head back to New Wave to watch the final few lessons, assist with the pack-up and attend to anything that has arisen throughout the day. I’m home by about 7.30pm for dinner and to unwind with my girlfriend before heading to bed at around 9pm.

I also lead Chōsen Experiences regularly in Bali. The spirit of the Chōsen Experiences is very relaxed and easy-going, but at the same time we manage to fit in quite a lot of training and adventure. We do daily strength and mobility training, plus a few swimming sessions of course. The adventure part changes every time, so I am in for a surprise myself. It’s a great week of reflection, relaxation, exploration and resetting.

Chōsen Experiences is a luxury adventure wellness holiday company, with regular programs in Iceland, Bali, New Zealand and Gautemala. The next Chōsen event with Andrew Lauterstein starts on 5 November 2016 in Bali. Interest can be registered at http://chosenexperiences.com.

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