This is how Wayde would've had to mentally prepare for Olympic glory

By Kirstin Buick
15 August 2016

Training your mind is just as important as training your body, experts say.

Ans Botha is the brain behind Wayde van Niekerk’s unbelievable Olympic achievement, says Gielie Hofmann, a life coach from Pretoria. She is the person who does Wayde’s planning, who determines how he’ll run and which competitions he will part in. She prepares him for the intensity level on the track and teaches him to perform at a consistently high standard every day. She also prepares him for the pressure cooker environment of international sporting events.

“At the beginning of the year Wayde started taking part in various 100 m and 200 m events in order to gain speed for the 400 m event. An athlete never runs without a plan,” says Gielie, who helped tennis player Raven Claassen reach the semi-finals of the men’s doubles at Wimbledon.

Read more: ‘It was a massacre!’ The epic moment Wayde sprinted to gold in the 400 m

He has also helped top rugby players like Morne Steyn and Francois Hougaard to raise their game.

“Wayde hasn’t just been working on his athletic achievements for the past three months; he and Ans have been working on pulling off this remarkable feat for three years now.”

They needed to decide what would be Wayde’s best tactic on the track, to be the fastest out of the blocks or to hold back and finish strong.” Gielie adds that any athlete’s success also depends on their self-belief.

“The athlete’s self-belief must be great. It is nurtured during training as he works hard and sees himself becoming stronger and faster. Wayde’s previous achievements have definitely made his self-belief stronger.”

Read more: It’s a tie! Chad and Michael Phelps BOTH earn silver in 100 m butterfly

He also needs to keep good routines and hobbies during the off-season, especially when he’s cooling off after an event. This helps him to keep calm.

But an athlete’s mental fitness plays just as important a role as their body.

“It’s exhausting for all athletes when the media and experts analyse every move and give their opinions, like they did with Wayde. It can throw them of course. Ans would have had to ensure that he didn’t pay too much attention to that and put his faith firmly in his coaching team,” says Gielie.

Visualisation is also very important for success.

This athlete should be able to visualise the race, from start to finish. Your brain doesn’t differentiate between real and imagined. So when the athlete competes in the race in front of thousands of fans for the first time, he won’t feel anxious because in his mind – he’s already done it.”

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