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Psychological strength underpins top physical performance for athletes

Psychological strength underpins top physical performance for athletes

Winter Olympics: Expert sports psychologists available for comment

Medal positions at the PyeongChang Olympics this month will be decided by tiny margins, with success achieved by athletes who manage the intense pressure and expectations of competition, according to sports psychologists.

Athletes who are able to put aside medal expectations to intensely focus on their process and approach to performance are more likely to achieve medal-winning success.

Sports psychologists who have worked with Australian athletes preparing for Olympic competition say the psychological factors that will come into play for competitors include:

  • Pressure to perform at a ‘once in a lifetime’ event.
  • Expectations of ‘medal favourites’, who experience exceptional internal and external pressure as they come into the Games.
  • Unexpected external factors, which could include weather, media and public scrutiny, political issues, potential terrorism, and crashes or injuries.
  • The challenges of unfamiliar training and performance environments (such as tracks, rinks or slopes), sometimes with little preparation available.
  • Seeing team members outperform them in individual sports.

Members of the Australian Psychological Society (APS) College of Sports and Exercise Psychologists who have worked with Australian Winter Olympic teams will be available for interview during the Olympics. 

How sport psychologists assist Olympians

Sports psychologists work with athletes to provide support and strategies to assist with:

  • Performance issues related to their sport.
  • Personal issues related to their health and wellbeing, team dynamics and personal situations that might impact their performance.
  • Coping with competing and participating in the ‘international circus’ of an Olympic Games. 
  • Post-performance support if knocked out of competition or if performance is below par.
  • ‘Post-Olympic blues’.


Journal article: Skating on Olympic Ice: Workng with Winter Olympians, International Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology, 2014.   Request the full article from media@psychology.org.au

Psychlopaedia article: Why mental toughness is the secret to success at the Olympics

For more information, or to arrange an interview call the APS Media team on 03 8662 3358 or 0435 896 444, or email media@psychology.org.au. Find the APS Media team on Twitter: @AustPsych

The APS is the largest professional organisation for psychologists in Australia, representing more than 23,000 members. The APS is committed to advancing psychology as a discipline and profession. It spreads the message that psychologists make a difference to people’s lives, through improving psychological knowledge and community wellbeing.