FC99: How to Win 42 Olympic Gold Medals Feat. Choi Eun Kyung and the Korean Short-Track Skaters

If people aren’t laughing at your dreams…then they aren’t big enough! – Grayson Marshall

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Hello and welcome back to the star player academy show, episode 99.

This is Marilyn Wo, I know your toughest challenge is to perform your best under pressure in your sport, so I’m here to give you my best ideas and resources to maximise your potential and enjoy your game as much as you can. Hope that helps.

On today’s show, I want to share with you what I’ve been learning from a Sports Psychology course called Elite Sport Performance: Psychological Perspectives by Peter Terry and Neil Martin. It’s an online course endorsed by ASPASP, which stands for the Asian-South Pacific Association of Sport Psychology.

How to Win 42 Olympic Gold Medals Featuring Choi Eun Kyung and the Champion Korean Short Track Skaters

It’s actually free for anyone to learn more about sports psychology and what you can apply in your trainings to develop a training program for your team and players if you are a coach, or if you are an athlete, you can learn how to develop your own mental strength to mentally prepare for the highest levels of competition in your own sport.

If you are interested, you can just simply go to the show notes at starplayeracademy.com/99, I’ll leave the link of their site and you can just register and take the course at your own time. I think they will leave it open for one year, so you have lots of time to go through the whole course. If you are really interested, I’d suggest that you quickly sign up for it now and take about half an hour everyday to finish a chapter, that will ensure you finish up the course in a week or two and you can apply to your sport as soon as you can.

So as I mentioned I will be sharing with you something I’ve learned in this course. In fact there is a module that talks about how Korea is able to win 42 Olympic short-track medals, 12 more than China, it’s nearest rival.

What is Short Track Speed Skating?

Case Study of Korean Short Track Gold Medallist: Choi Eun Kyung

In this module, a number of reasons were analysed and there is also a case study of one of the Korean medallists in short-track which I will feature here today. Her name is Choi Eun Kyung. Her achievements were astounding: 1 gold and 1 silver in 2002 Olympic Winter Games, 1 gold and 1 silver medal in 2006 Olympic Winter Games, World Champion in 2003 and 2004, 2 gold and 2 silver medals in 2003 Asian Winter Games and 5 gold medals in 2005 World University Games.

A very important lesson I’ve learned from Choi is this. Although she is one of the greatest short-track skater in the world, it doesn’t mean she is without fear or pressure. She said it herself that she remembered feeling a lot of pressure when she faced a serious new challenge. When she had to face other athletes with better results than her, she would feel intense pressure mounting inside of her. It’s natural for anyone looking to compete to be better and looking to achieve better results than others.

In order to cope and get around this, she did not quell her fears just by leaving them alone. We can’t do that. Being fearful or feeling the pressure may be natural, but we need to find a way to understand ourselves and to know what’s the best condition we need to be at our fullest potential.

korean short track skaters and Shim Suk hee won her first Olympic Medal in Sochi in action

Create Experiments to Test Game Plans

In order to do that, she experimented various competition preparation strategies for contests that are not part of the Olympics. So she had to sort of risk her results at the other contests to test different strategies to see which are the better ways that help her perform better.

This is something that we should all learn, to sign ourselves up for games or contests to test and practice strategies or game plans to figure out what works best. Especially if you are in a team sport, all the more you need more games to test what strategies work best amongst all your teammates. Team dynamics may require varying combinations of game tactics and you need to keep trying and trying till something sticks. You need to be sure that you are comfortable with your role and that your teammates are comfortable and they are able to execute what they are expected to do as well.

If this is not done well enough, it’s hard for you to stay relaxed enough, and when you are too tense, your performance will be affected dramatically.

Back to Choi, she gave herself an objective, which was to find out what works to lift her confidence level and make her relaxed to the point that she can perform her best. That’s the best scenario for any athlete to be able to enjoy one’s game with the best results one can get.

During these experiments, she was able to figure out the traits of opponents, and psychologically ignored the opponents who were worse than her, also excluding them as rivals when doing imagery training. That’s how she felt more confidence and relaxed, and that’s when her athletic performance improved during training. This also led her to be less tense. During this time, the whole process also allowed her coach and her to become a lot closer. She mentioned that she used to feel quite distant because of the attention she got from overseas athletes. But this time, when she started to block that out, her relationship with her coach grew stronger, her confidence also started to grow more.

Repetitive Processes to Relief Tension

  1. Positive Affirmation: On top of strategising her training plans, Choi also credited her performance under pressure to how she continuously do a lot of self-talk. She always tells herself: “It’s is nothing,” “I can do well,” “Let me take this opportunity that is given to me.” She keeps making positive affirmations at the same time showing gratitude to what she has at the moment in time. This attitude allows her to appreciate what she was given which led her to take every opportunity with drive and treasure every moment she has to face at any point in time.
  2. Music: Another way to feel more relaxed is to listen to music rather than spending time with others. Use more time to relief your own tension and within to prepare for competition. You may want to find a day, spend an hour or so select your favourite competition playlist, with all the music that you need to keep you upbeat and relaxed enough to focus in your games.
  3. Repeat: For Choi, it’s the repetition of these processes that made her feel confident after each race.

Shim Suk-hee won her first Olympic Medal in Sochi

Experiences Help You Deal with Nervousness and Tension

The one thing that is sure to help any athlete overcome tension is through experience. I guess this is natural for anything you do. As Weber’s law states that the just-noticeable difference between two stimuli is proportional to the magnitude of the stimuli (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Weber%E2%80%93Fechner_law).

It is only when you have to go through such scenarios like highly pressurised conditions in competitions on a regular basis that you learn to deal with them. So as I’ve mentioned before, the more you are part of it, the more you become accustomed to it. There’s no secret or magic to it. It’s a normal human reaction in this world.

As also mentioned in this course: “It can be assumed that regular exposure to negative psychological experiences during training and competition reduces, and perhaps eventually eliminates, the probability of athletes feeling high tension during major competitions. Choi mentioned the reduction in negative psychological reactions that she experienced.”

She also said: “As I got more experienced (in the Olympics), I felt comfortable at the start line, and it was even funny sometimes to see other athletes worried, and I even laughed when my head coach played jokes.”

So in short, what you may be experiencing now as you go through your trainings and competitions is like a rollercoaster ride. There are good times and there may be bad times, these are experiences you have to go through for you to learn and give you stronger immunity in the next round of situation whatever that may be.

You may earn many achievements or accomplishments along the way, but those do not necessarily lead to ongoing success. Once you’ve climbed a mountain it does not mean you have all the mountains conquered. You need to descend from the first mountain and plan your route to climb the next one should you aim to work towards the next success.

So never get over-confident after going through one event even though it has made you a stronger athlete or player.

Nevertheless, both successes and failures should be taken as positive experiences, because you’ll learn from both situations. The only tricky thing is that both scenarios are being taken differently by different athletes. You need to know yourself first and understand that anything can happen and that every experience you will go through is to make you stronger.

Put Sustained Effort to Overcome Difficulties

The Korean legacy does not come about because the athletes are Koreans. They were able to  reach such achievements due to putting sustained, intense effort to reach their goals and overcome the adversities that come their way in the process. It’s not that they get to their goals easily. I’m sure they’ve also faced the same or even more difficulties as what you are facing right now, injuries, lack of proper training program, teammates who aren’t able to commit, lack of support or even poor family conditions.

Team Korea won the gold medal in the ladies' 3,000-meter short track relay at the Sochi 2014 Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia.

Let’s hear what they said when it comes to effort versus talent:

Kang YunMi, 2006 Olympic gold medallist said: “I believe the athlete who succeeds in the end is not because of talent but because of effort. I think only those who were never satisfied with their athletic performance and who endlessly put effort into trying to reach the top in the Olympic Games got the medals in the end.”

Jin SunYoo, 2006 Olympic gold medallist said: “I thought to myself when I did badly in competition, “You did not do well in the competition so take a break,” but when I only had a little time left before a competition, I tried to control myself not by doing what I should not do, but rather by doing more exercise when others slept.”

Goal Setting, Intention of Effort and Personal Tenacity

For these Korean skaters, they credit their achievements with how they set their goals, their deliberate practice and the grit they have towards working hard on what they aim to achieve.

Olympic champion Ko GiHyun provided an example of her strategy for goal accomplishment. “I had to start my daily training at 5:30 and for that, I had to leave at 5:20 and run a few laps around the field. I went to the rink from 6 and I thought if I start my training earlier than others I can make more laps each day, I can run 2 laps in the morning and 4 in total per day. If I do it for 1 month, it will be 120 more laps. This is how I thought about it. It was not my purpose, but rather it was my way of living.”

You can see that for them, it’s a lifestyle that they are willing to go through, rather than taking it as a form of sacrifice or punishment.

Another Olympic Champion, Jeon DaHye, affirmed the benefits of goal-setting.
“It was setting the goals for the Olympic Games and the World Championship rather than willingness that allowed me to become a top athlete, and as I accomplished my goal, I had more willingness and became more motivated.”

With what Jeon has said, it has really taught me that passion is one thing, but it doesn’t mean I should allow myself to stop and relax when I don’t feel like training. It’s normal that even for these skaters, there are times they are just not willing to train or they just don’t feel like it. But it’s when they set goals and stick to their plans whether they like it or not that allowed them to achieve what they want to achieve. That’s how motivation comes about.

Be Objective to Find the Optimal Solution with Collective Intelligence

Medal Ceremony for Short Track Ladies’ 3000m Relay

When it comes to overall training and execution program by these Korean skaters, collective intelligence is something many teams even those in Singapore, the country I’m from has yet to learn.

Let me reiterate what has been mentioned in one of the course materials:
It has been observed that successful Korean skaters have developed collective intelligence about competitive strategies, and they willingly share that knowledge with younger athletes.

Short-track speed skaters from the Republic of Korea have tended to favour a strategy in which they come from behind to take the lead late in the race. As the collective intelligence has been constructed, skaters have tended to use effective strategies spontaneously in competitions without prior planning.

This process is identical to the spontaneous usage tendency indicated by research on gifted persons based on Benito’s study on Metacognitive ability and cognitive strategies to solve math and transformation problems (Benito, 2000).

Creative intelligence, analytical intelligence, and contextual intelligence (see Sternberg, 2000) are closely related to the environment experienced in training or competition. Contextual intelligence is related to competitive strategy, adapting to the environment, and coping with unexpected situations. Analytical intelligence involves the process of finding the optimal solution after briefly analyzing and judging the situation.

Olympic champion Park HyeWon highlighted the necessity of analytical intelligence in competition. “If you don’t make quick decisions, there are many cases in which the competition is over without having done anything. Thus it is necessary to be able to make quick judgments. It is necessary to decide what kinds of moves to make by watching the opponents.”

It’s important that athletes and coaches develop the ability to analyze the situation and to find optimal creative solutions.

Creativity is defined as the individual ability to generate new and appropriate ideas, methods, interpretations, or actions (Sternberg, 1988).

Jeon Dahye also says:”The athletes who consistently do well discover something in the situation that they can resolve. Guys like An HyunSoo watch competition videos a lot. He analyses races by watching competition videos… So, the guys who do well develop their own unique methods.”

Talented athletes improve the quality of their athletic performances with their own methods, using their creativity to discover new techniques and strategies.

Jeon went on to say: “Top athletes are always learning. It seems that learning abilities differ even when the same things are taught. There are some guys who can quickly understand what is being taught and other guys who take a long time to understand what is being taught and make no changes. The guys who do well seem to understand well… Maybe they really do understand well…”

Let’s also hear what Lee Ho Suk has to say about observing other athletes who do well: “I saw many of my teammates who were really good. I had a lot of things to learn from my sister-like teammates. As I observed them closely, I improved, and I won the gold medal in the Asian Games and I steadily got better…”

Hope that you’re able to learn really valuable lessons today. I’ve learned a ton just by sharing this with you, but should you need help anytime, just email me your most pressing problem you have in your sport or team and I will connect with you as soon as I can. My email address is marilyn@starplayeracademy.com, let’s get in touch.

With that, we have come to the end of today’s episode.

Before you go, I have a quote for you by Grayson Marshall, he said, “If people aren’t laughing at your dreams…then they aren’t big enough!”

Thank you all for joining me today. If you are wondering what you can do to be the best athlete you can ever be, go to starplayeracademy.com, I’ve prepared a cheat sheet that shows you 15 success traits of a serious athlete that you can follow in one glance. So head over to starplayeracademy.com right now, and till tomorrow.

I look forward to see you become a StarPlayer.

Show Links

Best Performance Books:

Best Resource:

Featured Video:

What is Short Track Skating?
Sochi Olympics 2014 – Short Track Speedskating: Nascar on Ice – The New York Times

Short Track Speed Skating – Ladies’ 3000m Relay – Korea Win Gold | Sochi 2014 Winter Olympics

Short Track Speed Skating – Women’s 1500M – Turin 2006 Winter Olympic Games

South Korea’s Lee Takes the Gold

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