07/09/2012 06:41 am ET | Updated Sep 08, 2012

Olympic-Size Pressure

The summer Olympics were always my favorite. When I was a child, I envisioned myself as a world-class gymnast, but alas, I have the wrong body type and no talent to speak of in that area. Now I watch the Olympics for the running events.

Regardless of which sport is your favorite, the one thing that has always bugged me about the Olympics -- and all professional sporting events, for that matter -- is the announcers. Here you have the world's best athletes (who have often spent their whole lives preparing for this moment), and all the commentators can do is point out their flaws. Yes, I know it's supposed to make for good television, but come on. Can't they think of anything positive to say? After all, Olympic athletes aren't superheroes; they are real people, just like us -- albeit with considerably more talent.

Like us, they too have fears. Lots of them. In a recent Men's Health interview, British 100-meter gold medalist Linford Christie admitted that he was afraid of losing more than he was afraid of injury, dying or spiders! Talk about pressure. And if he thinks he has it bad, he should talk to one of the Saudi female soccer players. Not only do these women lack the time to train and contend with having to train in secret, they live in fear of backlash from their own country -- that is, if they are ultimately even allowed to go to the Olympics.

Olympic marathoner Deena Kastor once told Runner's World, "I was the most prepared I'd ever been: superfit with no nagging injuries. I was ready to win. But that morning, I felt very sensitive to the cold and didn't feel the drive and push I'd been working so hard for. During the race, it showed. I visited the restroom a couple of times, which I've never done before. I came in more than 15 minutes off my PR [personal record]. For success in the marathon, you have to get to the starting line as perfectly as you know how. Even then, there's no guarantee." Yep, spoken like a true athlete. Despite all of your fears and all of your preparation, there's no guarantee.

The point I'm trying to make here is that these athletes used their fear to better themselves; they didn't let it get in the way of their goals. The only thing Deena Kastor knew with 100 percent certainty was that if she didn't try, she'd never succeed. There are so many factors that are outside of an Olympic athlete's control -- the weather; the training and course conditions; other people cheating or doping to get to the top; the announcers' running commentary about their performance, or lack thereof.... All you can worry about is you, and even then, some days your best isn't good enough. And that's okay. If you got out there and conquered or even faced one of your fears today, you're better off than 99 percent of the rest of the world. Face a fear today. Be your own hero. After all, it really doesn't matter what the announcers say about you. As a friend of mine once told me, what other people think about you isn't your concern. So you might as well go out there and be fearless, or at least give it the old-fashioned try.

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