The BAC’s Athlete Engagement Manager, Kristian Thomas, is a double Olympian, having competed at London 2012 and Rio 2016, winning an historic bronze medal at the former. At the start of a new Olympic and Paralympic year, he gives an insight into his mentality at this stage before his two Olympic Games appearances.
“It’s a strange quirk of the current situation that, despite the fact I’ve been in my role as Athlete Engagement Manager for just over 12 months, I’ve already seen the dawn of two Olympic and Paralympic years from this perspective.
“Many of our members will have woken up on 1 January 2020 feeling a mix of nerves, excitement and anticipation as Tokyo 2020 came firmly into view.
“Fast forward 12 months, and we’re still (hopefully) just over six months from the Olympic Games, and seven from the Paralympics. For some, the delay will have been a huge blow, for others it may actually turn into a blessing, but either way, that excitement will be starting to build again.
“Looking back on my own career, I remember when the nerves and overwhelming excitement at the start of 2012, which was the year of my first Olympics.
“From experience, there will be growing noise and chatter about the Games at this point, within but also outside of training environments. For me, the key to coping with this increase in potential distractions was to find my own mechanisms to drown it out, and identify particular instances when I needed my own space or time.
“As my two Olympic years – 2012 and 2016 – wore on, I also became more aware of the need to find things to do away from sport, to give me the opportunity to really switch off. In doing so, I found comfort and reassurance in knowing that my plan was already in place – my preparations had been worked on, the hard work was done, and all I needed to do was focus on being consistent and sticking to those plans.
“For obvious reasons, Olympic and Paralympic athletes won’t get a huge amount of other international competition this year, but in the lead up to my two Olympic Games I saw intensity within competition and training increase.
“I’d advise everyone experiencing this for the first time to make sure they’re combating this higher intensity with better recovery, and focusing solely on their own training and progress, rather than anyone else’s.
“There is probably a natural temptation to look at the performances of athletes with whom you may be competing for a place on the plane to Tokyo, and issues over selection will, unfortunately, always be relatively stressful.
“From my experiences as an athlete and latterly with the BAC, I’d advise athletes to know where to locate their NGB’s selection policy, and ensure that they seek clarity on any aspects of the policy that they’re unsure of.
“One thing I can’t relate to is the additional pressure put upon athletes due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and the psychological effects of having to re-evaluate your preparations after the Games were postponed.
“However, what I can say with complete honesty from my own experience is that, whatever stresses or emotional journeys that athletes go through on the way to a Games, representing your country at an Olympic or Paralympic Games is the proudest, most rewarding experience of an athlete’s life, and is something to be savoured and enjoyed.
“The BAC is here to support our members with independent, confidential and expert advice in the run-up to Tokyo and beyond. Should any athlete require support on any issue, they should contact firstname.lastname@example.org.”