The Run Up to the Olympics with Chris Walker-Hebborn

Olympic year for an athlete is a very intense time. Ironically, I have only just really come to terms with how stressful it can be since stepping away from the sport. Although it's 2020 and a year that for most athletes is a pivotal time in their career, for me I actually forgot the Olympics was coming up.


The Pressure for Athletes

For athletes their entire focus is on a 4-year cycle, this will include several major competitions throughout the years, but the entire focus will be geared towards the Olympics. All of the targets, times and medal tallies are based around the legendary games.

With this can come a lot of pressure from many different places. First of all, the pressure you put on yourself can be overwhelming, however if you channel and manage it correctly it can be used to your advantage. Secondly, pressure can come from your governing bodies and sponsors. This is natural and expected because you are endorsed and supported to perform at your best when it matters most.

The final form of pressure can come from family and friends, not intentionally, but most have been the foundation of support and want the best for you. This, in turn, can add a lot of pressure by not wanting to let anyone down.


The Olympic Standard Chris Walker-Hebborn

Saying this, it's not that easy to make the Olympic team. The qualification standards seem to get faster and faster. Every 4 years there is an event held called the Olympic trials, this is where all British swimmers get the chance to post their best time in hopes of Olympic qualification.


There are two qualifying times, A & B, if you get the B time then you are in “Consideration” for the team, which is down to the discretion of the selection panel. Alternatively, if you achieve the A time then it is automatic qualification, although this time is usually a top 5 time in the world, so the standard is very hard.


My Olympic Journey

My experience as an Olympic athlete has varied over the two Olympic cycles, I have competed in.

The first was the London games in 2012. For me it's a bittersweet experience because on the upper hand I was fortunate enough to compete in my home city and represent Great Britain in front of thousands of people in supportive crowds, but unfortunately I massively underperformed and never made it out the heats in both of my events, subsequently this led to me leaving the sport for several months before making another attempt before Rio 2016.

It's a hard and unforgiving journey but if you truly believe in your own ability, then don’t give up until you’ve reached it. This was the reason that I came back to try for another 4 years and it turned out to be the best 4 years of my career by winning medals at every senior event and finishing with an Olympic Silver in Rio.


Wow, thanks for that honest and helpful insight into the games, Chris! 

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