As a huge fan of the Olympics and swimming, I am so incredibly thrilled to have witnessed 16 year old Penny Oleksiak win Canada’s first Gold medal at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games. There are some incredible lessons that we can all learn from this amazing 16 year old athlete, who has been making history every time she swims. Last night, she became the most decorated Canadian athlete in a single Summer Olympics and tied one of my swimming heroes, Victor Davis for the most Olympic swimming medals. And it’s not over yet! Tonight (Friday) she and her team compete for the 4 x 100 m medley relay where they are serious contenders for the podium.
Here’s what I’ve learned from watching Penny and how we can all apply it to our lives:
- A deep sense of gratitude for all who have helped her to reach her goals. When she did her interview after the Gold medal swim, she expressed her gratitude for her family and for the women on the relay team. First, we ground ourselves in gratitude in order to achieve success.
- Having fun is key. We keep seeing her huge smile, and she is seen laughing and smiling in the ‘ready room’ right before swimming her big races. Keeping things light, having a few laughs helps to calm nerves and release some pressure. When faced with challenges and pressure, trying smiling and laughing to break the tension.
- Age is not a factor. Being in her first Olympics at age 16, she was not expected to perform so well. Making the finals would have been a huge accomplishment. Yet Penny decided that didn’t matter – even though she’s only 16 – she swims like a seasoned world champion. It’s easy to use the excuse I’m too young or I’m too old (cue Michael Phelps at 31), the fact is that it’s not a real reason for success or failure. It’s about the attitude.
- Leave it all in the pool. Penny shared that on the second length of her swim she went as hard as she could (she was 7th at the turn in a race that is 2 lengths of the pool) as she wanted to leave it all in the pool. And she tied for a Gold medal. When going for ‘gold’ make sure you leave it all in pool, don’t worry about what’s next, give it your all for that one moment.
- Stay humble. For such a young superstar, it’s important to stay humble. Penny is definitely humble and you don’t see her flashing any bravado. However she has strength, courage, self-confidence and power – all traits you see in a champion. Celebrate successes while staying humble and grateful at your core.
- The mental game is what gives you the edge. Penny has a very strong mental game. To be able to perform at such a high level, day after day, in front of the entire world takes a very strong mental athlete. She has shown that with the support of her coaches, teammates and family, her mental game is solid. Our thoughts create our reality, to become an Olympic champion in our own lives we’ve got to win the mental game first.
Congratulations to Penny Oleksiak and the rest of the Canadian Women’s swim team on your success so far in these Olympic Games. We’ll be watching again tonight to see if you’ll once again make history. And with such a young team – not only are they making history, they are creating an amazing world-class future for Canadian swimming.
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