By Katelynn Thys | BSU at the Games
Being an athlete in the Olympic Games is more than just competing; it’s dealing with the publicity, the fame, the pressure and the distractions the Olympic atmosphere can bring.
To help ease future hopeful Olympians into the world of the Games, Great Britain has set up the British Olympic Ambition Program. It is giving 130 young British athletes and 57 coaches a chance to see what it’s like to be a part of the worldwide sporting event.
Phil Wood, coach for the Ambition Program, acts as mentor and support for the team and believes this program gives Britain an edge over other countries.
“Seventy percent of Olympians are better at their second Olympics, so hopefully these guys bring home medals their first time competing,” he said.
Yena Stadnik, female wrestler on the GB Ambition program, said she thinks the program has shown her what she can expect both mentally and physically.
“The workshops help me get a taste of everything,” Stadnik said. “I am treated like I am one of the athletes.”
Each athlete is selected by his or her specific sport’s National Governing Body. During the program, the members first go to a Preparation Camp at Loughborough University, where they get fitted for Team GB sports gear.
Eighteen-year-old indoor volleyball athlete Rupert Scott said he had to wear his gear for the two-and-a-half-day period he was in London for the program.
“I’m not even an Olympic athlete yet, and people still wanted to take pictures with me,” he said. “People were really interested.”
During the Olympic hopefuls’ stay in London, they got the chance to watch two Olympic competitions in person.
Sarah Winckless, 2004 bronze medalist in rowing and program director, said she organized each participant to be matched up to their sport (or one similar if they’re winter athletes) and another sport they didn’t know anything about.
“As an athlete, you often get wrapped up in your own sport, so instead of them living in their own sport it’s important to see how wide the Olympics are,” she said.
The participants also get to meet previous Olympians for some athlete-to-athlete learning because they speak the same language, Winckless said. She wished she had had the program before she competed because it shows that it’s OK to have bad days as an athlete.
“There’s a myth people think that the athletes on the podium have it easy, but they don’t. It’s hard work,” she said. “Medals aren’t won in a game, they’re won throughout the years.”
Winckless herself learned that lesson when she competed in her first Olympic Games after she had been injured. She knew she wasn’t in form to win any medals but just being apart of it inspired her to carry on and keep working hard. She wants to let new athletes know that it is determination that keeps you going, since most sports careers are short.
“I put on a brave face with the media and everyone,” she said. ”But I was living the dream, even if I wasn’t in form. It’s OK if you don’t win a medal right away, Everything you train for doesn’t change.”
Yena Stadnik said hearing stories like this have shown her not to give up, that there is a reason to carry on.
Preparation is something freestyle wrestler Craig McKenna learned about that he thought was most important.
“Preparation is key, even though the Olympic atmosphere is great,” McKenna said, “even if it means being anti-social for a while.”
Even if they don’t all make it to the Olympic Games, Rupert Scott said this experience has prepared him for any type of big game that he will be involved with in his life.
“There’s so much more than just competing. There are so many distractions that really test your limits,” he said. “This has really helped me. It shows me how much pressure competing in big games are.”
Katelynn Thys is a junior telecommunications and journalism major at Ball State University and features reporter for BSU at the Games. Follow Katelynn and the BSU team at @skyismylimit_kt, @bsuatthegames and www.facebook.com/bsuatthegames.