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Excellence Means Not Limiting Yourself

Lessons From The Champions: Ian James Thorpe, OAM

Posted: 17 May 2013

Striving to do your very best all the time and not limiting yourself to marks that have been set by others are what define “excellence” for 5-time Olympic gold medallist Ian James Thorpe, OAM.

The Brand Ambassador for TYR swimwear and apparel shared this point when he delivered “Lessons From The Champions” at Singapore Sports School on 14 May 2013. TYR, which is also the School’s Swimming Academy sponsor, brokered his visit to the School.

Thorpe is Australia’s most decorated Olympian with 5 gold, 3 silvers and 1 bronze medals. His five Olympic gold medals are the most won by any Australian. He has also won 11 World Championship titles.

He was the most successful athlete at the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games, winning 3 gold and 2 silver medals. At the 2001 World Aquatics Championships, he became the first person to win 6 gold medals in one World Championship.

Thorpe became the youngest male ever to represent Australia. He also became the youngest ever individual male World Champion when he won the 400m Freestyle at the 1998 World Championships in Perth.

Thorpe shared his experience of competing at swimming’s highest level for almost 10 years. He spoke about Excellence, Making Plans, Coach-Athlete Relationship, Managing Time, Handling The Media and also gave an insight to why Asian swimmers are slowly becoming a force to be reckoned with.

“Excellence is beyond winning an Olympic gold medal. It is striving to do your very best all the time and not limiting yourself to marks that have been set by others. It’s alight if what you do is not perfect; it gives  something to work on.”
Making Plans
“At the end of every season, my parents and I sat down to decide what I was going to do next season. We don’t talk about trying things out for three months and see how it goes. When we make a commitment, we look at doing it for one whole season. It is the same with my academics – once you decide on the path to take, commit to it. But you should have the option of being able to change as well.”

Coach-Athlete Relationship
“Listen to your coach 95 per cent; the remaining 5 per cent is for you to think about it. Don’t argue with your coach. Most of the time, he is right. If you don’t agree with what your coach says, talk to him about it. This is so you don’t become a robot.”

Managing Time
“The best thing about sport is what it teaches you for the latter part of your life. You become an expert in time management. When I was at school, my day started as early as 4.45 am. I often did my homework in the bus on the way home from training. When I got home and had dinner, I wanted to go to bed because I was just so tired. So it is finding these small pockets of time to fit in my studies too.”

Handling The Media
“There is a lot of pressure, a lot of expectation and it is a distraction from what you are doing. Nothing can prepare you for something like this. You should learn not to read anything about yourself – whether it is positive or negative. Either way, it isn’t a reflection of who you are because if you know who you are, you don’t need it to be reinforced by someone else. You can find your own strength rather than then rely on other people to help with your ego.”

Asian Swimmers
“Asian swimmers are able to utilise their swimming skills on the turns, and during their underwater dolphin kicks, there is less energy cost to them because of their smaller muscle mass as compared to the Caucasian swimmers. The Asian swimmer also sits very high and rides the water well when swimming. There’s a lot of debate about whether the height of a swimmer matters his swimming. It’s no longer the taller swimmer who will win. It’s the athlete who knows how to master the techniques, and working on what he has.”