„If it feels too good, then it’s wrong“, says Christian Olsson, a famous Swedish triple jumper in his interview for a documentary called „The Price of Gold“. With this sentence Olsson states that practices and exercises shouldn’t feel comfortable and enjoyable – because then they won’t make you better.
The film in question talks about Swedish track and field athletes who have brought numerous medals and fame to their country at the price of severe injuries and years lost to rehabilitation. I was following Olsson’s career with great interest when I was a teenager and the thing I remember best is that during those rare moments when he was competing without any injuries, I was literally holding my breath that nothing bad would happen.
Besides well-known Swedes in this documentary, the movie also introduces young prospective athletes who have only just begun their career and yet are struggling with serious injuries that can end their road to success before it even begins.
When I first saw this movie, so many conflicting thoughts came to my mind – about coaches who have questionable training methods; about the ridiculous idea that if you are not injured, you don’t try enough; about how far one can go for his/her ambitions. Now, 3 years later, I’m working with young athletes and have a new point of view…
…How bad do you want it?
So you think you are an athlete. Or you want to become one. You go to practices regularly, do what the coach says, taste the sweetness of the wins and bitterness of the losses, you have fans (your family and friends), you watch your idols and dream about being at the same level as them in the future. That is all very nice. But do you really want to become an athlete enough to:
– give up on things?
Do you want it bad enough to skip going to movies with your friends and use the evening off for necessary rehabilitation procedures? To miss a prom in order to take the extra practice? To read some books about nutrition instead of playing videogames? To stop posting motivational pictures and actually go running in the pouring rain? To replace fries and chicken nuggets with vegetables and high-protein meals? To go to sleep early instead of watching a good movie?
– put individual effort in addition to things your coaches tell you to do?
It’s one thing to be a diligent sportsman, but another thing entirely is to go the extra mile: your time, dedication, your own presence in your training. Your body is a tool and you shouldn’t count only on medical staff or coaches to keep that tool in perfect condition. Are you willing to take time to get to know yourself, learn your weaknesses and work on them outside the practices? In „Price of Gold“ they show Carolina Klüft performing a depth jump from the hurdle just a day before the World Championship and getting injured after landing poorly. Trusting your coach is one thing but following him/her blindly can lead to a bad outcome. Critical thinking and knowledge of many aspects in your sport makes you a better athlete.
– feel uncomfortable?
“Anyone who says being an elite athlete is good for you is nuts” says Susanna Kallur while talking about the things she has been through. As an athlete, you must put your body through things that „normal“ people would never do. In addition, you also push your mind through thoughts and situations that are uncomfortable to most of us. Depression, severe insecurity, anxiety – these are all conditions that can occur during your career. Elite sports is not for average people.
– get hurt?
Yes, you have done it all: given up on unhealthy habits and taken care of your body in every possible way. However, even though lots of injuries can be prevented, bad postures corrected and individual weaknesses compensated for, elite sport will never be completely injury-free. Susanna Kallur shows a hideous scar on her right shin, which was the cause of a horrible infection. Are you willing to start everything all over again? To take an extra 3 hours per day for rehabilitation? To go through surgeries without knowing if they will really help you?
Is winning priceless?
Watch the scenes where Klüft throws up after an uphill sprint and Eric Sundlöf moves around in a wheelchair – the price of gold is bearing the routine and giving your best even when you dont feel like it. Are you ready for it?
If you want it really bad, all the things above should not seem like sacrifices but rather the choices you really want to make. Regardless of all the injuries these top Swedes suffered from, they all say: giving up was never an option! At the end of the day, winning an olympic medal is something not everyone can brag about
Film link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8XnQyI3Mgbc