I love watching the Olympics. I especially get all swept up in the swimming, and the events in Rio did not disappoint. It’s exciting to watch people, at the top of their game, push themselves even harder, further, faster. I’m inspired by these athletes.
Marathon swimming is a relatively new Olympic sport. It was introduced in Beijing eight years ago. It’s the one swimming event that’s held in the ocean: a 10K open water swim off of Copacabana Beach. (My own interest in open water swimming was recently renewed.) The women competed yesterday morning, and the coverage aired on NBCSN around 8am. (The men compete this morning, if you see this in time.)
My interest in marathon swimming is the reason why I ended up hearing the most inspiring quote I’ve heard during the games. It takes nearly two hours to swim a 10K, so the start was televised, and but then they cut away to other coverage before returning and covering the finish.
One of the things they featured in the interim was an interview with Sarah Robles, who won a bronze medal in weightlifting – the first American woman in 16 years to win a medal in that sport. Robles lifted 286 kilograms total: 126 in the snatch and 160 in the clean and jerk. That’s 630 pounds total, spread between two lifts! Here’s a clip of her winning moments:
And her celebratory post on Instagram:
Sarah spoke very candidly about her experiences, including the challenges she’s had getting sponsors to help cover her costs (she also worked 3 jobs to save money), and how her first call, after winning the bronze, was to her grandmother.
But the part that really moved me was her answer when she was asked why she screams right before she lifts:
“The scream? Sometimes I yell before I lift to scare away any of the bad guys that are in there. If I’m the loudest voice, than there’s no one else in my mind telling me I can’t do it.”
What an incredible answer. First of all, she’s addressing the mental component of her sport: she knows she needs to think positively in order to reach her goals. Secondly, and more impressively, she’s acknowledging that, even at this level of competition, she’s still prone to self-doubt, and she’s not afraid to share that with the world.
It’s rare to hear an elite athlete – Olympic, professional, or otherwise – admit that there are other forces present inside their head, and ones that aren’t endlessly, eternally supportive and optimistic. I have self-doubts before and during many of my races, and I’ve assumed, in the past, that this isn’t a problem that the best in the world deals with.
Not only does Robles face the same issues as the rest of us, but she employs a winning tactic to triumph over the bad guys in her head: screaming. I can be vocal during my stair races, but usually it’s moaning, due to pain, soreness, exhaustion, or some combination thereof. Maybe I should try screaming. I like shutting up the negative voices that tell me I can’t… and then proving them wrong. And I love being the loudest in the room!
Keep it up, Sarah Robles…
and Keep it up, David!