What Do Sydney And Athens Have In Common?

EVERY Challenge IS AN OpportunitY

—by Andrew Russell

When you see challenging conditions, do you smirk or gasp? Do you recoil reconsidering your hindered chances, or is it a delight to see a potential advantage over competitors? The way we train our minds to handle adversity is a key component to our prospective chances in sport and beyond.

During my years of training in sprint canoe, I had a coach who loved to recite the cities that had hosted past Olympic Games. His favourite cities to recite were chosen as reminders of the need to be “ready for anything”. These cities were examples of events with extremely windy or challenging conditions, that made for some wild racing in the Olympic finals.

“Sydney,” he would say.

Rough conditions extend the Olympic Final in C-1 500 in the 2000 Sydney Games. 

This was a reminder of the incredible winds that delayed race finals for hours and hours in hopes of improved conditions. Eventually, the races would run despite a lack of improvement, with some races taking up to 25-30% longer to complete because of the gusts.

“Athens,” he would chime in again. Again a reminder of the strong winds that enhanced the difficulty of a number of the finals in 2004.

Typically these host cities would be named as we considered where we would train on a windy day. During our winter training camps down south, there was an option to use the unprotected open river or the sheltered canal system. If it was a particularly windy day, Athens and Sydney would be indicators that we would be paddling on the unprotected river to normalize the experience of training when the “going got tough”.

Over time I began to enjoy paddling in rougher weather. I relished the opportunity to battle the elements. I even found myself singing along, “Sydney. Athens,” as some members of the training group would groan at what was to come.

The feeling of having a mental edge before training or competition commences is a valuable confidence-building block that will power your performance.

Beyond my experience in sport, this attitude of embracing challenging conditions as opportunities has continued to serve me well.

So the next time you feel a metaphorical headwind, remember others are feeling the same gusts, but only some will embrace the challenge with confidence and vigor. Treat your next challenge as an opportunity!

Yours truly, with a positive outlook in all conditions,

Andrew