There are eight men or women on the starting line. All of them are fantastic athletes. Each one has sacrificed everything to be there ready to compete for the gold medal. Only one will cross the line first. One person will have that little bit extra that will propel them to glory.
What is it that makes that difference? Is it simply that they are the best? Or is it that on the day the wind was blowing in the right direction for them and they managed to creep across the line first.
Analyse the body
In the film Chariots of Fire the Jewish runner Harold Abrahams is lambasted by the stuffy hierarchy of his college for taking on a professional trainer. The trainer, Sam Mussabini, watches Abrahams and sees faults in his technique and he helps him to win gold in the Paris Olympics of 1924.
Nowadays the analysis of athletes is much more sophisticated. No longer do we rely on a grizzled old coach sitting in a stand spotting that a runner is over-striding.
Thanks to leaps and bounds in modern technology, athletes today are sent for physiological and physical testing so that they can identify their strengths and weaknesses. By doing this they can formulate an effective training programme. Not too mention they’ll also have the help of highly qualfied dietians and physios.
Analyse the mind
It is in the head that most races are won or lost. An athlete can already have lost a race before taking the first stride.
He or she may be carrying an injury. The ankle support may be hidden from view but at the back of their mind he or she has an excuse for not winning.
However, sometimes a bad injury can be used as a spur to success. Leon Baptiste suffered a knee ligament injury when playing football.
After months of rehab he turned his attention to athletics and he was a successful junior athlete winning gold in the 100m at the 2003 European Junior Championships.
But the old injury flared up and the knee pain returned. He had to fight back again. Two years a ago he displayed his fighting spirit at the Commonwealth Games in New Delhi by winning gold in the 200m.
Britain’s hope for gold in the Heptathlon Jessica Ennis has spoken about how important it is to work with a sports psychologist before any big event.
It may seem obvious but as psychologist Dr Victor Thomson says, “The more important an event is to the athlete, the more psychological factors can influence the outcome.”
He works with athletes to improve their feelings of wellbeing when they are in the performance zone. By reducing an athlete’s feelings of anxiety he helps them to enjoy the occasion.
Happy athletes tend to be successful athletes.
Sometimes an athlete is in perfect mental and physical shape and they come up against a phenomenal athlete like a Michael Johnson or a Usain Bolt.
In races like that as Roger Black said when he raced against Johnson, “(they are) running for silver.”