When we watch the swimming greats we
always imagine that their performances
Well, I don’t wanna
But they tend to make it look easy,
Years of practice and mastery have
led them to a point where they are the best, and so it can be
tempting to think that success for them came as smoothly as their
finely tuned strokes.
They have doubts.
And they have awful morning swims and
want to give up, too.
Perkins and the Outside Smoke Win of
In 1994, Australian Kieren Perkins
had the summer of his life.
First, at the Commonwealth Games, he
dummied the world records in the 800m and 1500m
In the same race.
His coach, John Carew, told him to
take it out with some speed to around 800m, test the WR in that
mark, and then let off the gas to save his best performance for
Worlds a couple months later.
(Feeling really good in the water,
Perkins did not let off the gas, and swam his
way to a new world mark in the
In Rome, later that summer, he added
the 400m freestyle world record to his little bookshelf of
So when the 1996 Atlanta Olympics
came around a couple years later, Perkins was the favorite to rock
the house in the distance freestyles.
But he’d had a rough year
leading up to the ATL Games…
He struggled at Australian
He had been besieged by
And his swimming, where once he was
totally unstoppable, was shaky at best.
During the preliminaries of his main
event, the 1500, Perkins was neck-deep in the
His stroke was off and his stomach
was cramping, making each flip-turn feel like he was getting karate
slapped in the stomach.
Physically, it was
“By the time I got midway
through that heat I had decided I wasn’t good enough, if I
couldn’t win the heat I wasn’t going to win the final,
and if I couldn’t win the final then better not to be
there,” Perkins said later.
He would place 8th in prelims, and
with a full day to sit on his hands, he boarded the roller coaster
Was he too old?
Was he washed up?
Had he trained enough over the past
year to warrant winning?
Perkins was no longer than the
favorite—teammate Daniel Kowalski was favored to take up the
mantel of distance king.
Kowalski had also cruised to the top
seed that morning in Atlanta.
The next day, Perkins would walk out
onto the pool deck for the final of the men’s 1500m
Not being favored anymore, and having
a day to experience the full yo-yo of
doubt, Perkins felt oddly
Like he almost had nothing to
“I realized what I had to do
was just go out there and swim the best that I could, and if I do,
that everything would be okay. It wouldn’t matter where I
came, I would have given my personal on the day and I could live
with that,” Perkins said.
Perkins dove in the water and took
the lead from the beginning with his characteristic strategy of
hitting the gas from stroke one and never backing
The time wasn’t awesome—a
dozen seconds slower than his personal best and WR—but it was
enough to muscle through for Olympic gold.
The reality is
Doubt is part of the deal with
No one is immune to
No matter how steely and focused
someone may appear on the outside, there is a current of doubt and
uncertainty that flows in all of us.
The difference lies in how we decide
to manage it.
How we choose to react when doubt
seizes upon us and makes us think the worst of the
You can choose to heed the panicked
words and thoughts of doubt…
Or you can put it aside for a moment
and give your best today.
See you in the
P.S. Managing doubt is a big part of
being able to train and compete at your best.
If we are consumed by it, we are
consistently pulling up short, pulling our punches. Excess bravado,
on the other hand, means we are living in denial of what it takes
to be successful.
confidence—is something you can develop and
Conquer the Pool features a
specialized section specifically for helping you to build
confidence, especially in moments of crisis.
A bad practice. A bad race. Tummy
troubles when you are flip-turning. You know,
Conquer the Pool is the first
book of its kind: a mental training workbook that is written for
swimmers, by swimmers, using concepts backed by research. With a
sprinkling of stories and anecdotes from Olympians past and present
for good measure.
Ready for some of that syrupy, sweet
Let’s get after