Rushlee Buchanan comes away from the UCI Track Cycling World Championships with a brilliantly taken bronze medal in the team pursuit to her name.  Buchanan is no stranger to performing at the highest level and in part 2 of this mini-series on pressure she shares how  pressure can be the sign that something exciting is about to happen.

Jaime Nielsen – best results from ‘pressured performances’

Pressure can be felt in many ways and it changes forms as you get older and more experienced – of course I’ve felt pressure before, it’s more or less an everyday experience for me now. I’m not scared of it and I welcome it, pressure generally means you’re about to enter something exciting, where you could do something amazing, do you feel pressure when you pour cereal into the bowl? No (unless you have bad aim) – because cereal is boring but reaching your goals and striving to be the best you can be, now that’s exciting!

The main type of pressure most people experience is nerves. You’re nervous because you’re about to race and you’re worried about your performance, this is pressure because you have put pressure on yourself to perform, you’ve entered a race and want to do well, you don’t want to crash, you want to attack and put yourself in a position to win the race etc.

Looking at these examples it’s important to focus on the process not the outcome. Of course when we were on the start line of the team pursuit bronze medal final in Rio we were thinking about the possibility of winning a bronze medal, however in that moment what we focused on was our own personal tasks in the race. The pressure to do well was enormous, as it always will be at the biggest sporting event in the world. But thinking about how much pressure we were dealing with was not going to make us go faster in that moment. Focusing on what we could control – our power, our breathing, our own ride – that’s what is important. 

Recognize there are many forms of pressure. Often high performance athletes will put the most pressure on themselves, but it often comes from external measures. When I entered the 2017 Road Nationals I knew that I could make history and become the only women to win 4. That was so exciting! I was happy to acknowledge that external pressure, but it was not something I was going to put on myself. I wanted to have a fun race, I focused on being the best rider I could be at every point in time in the race and knew if I did that the result would take care of itself. So recognise the pressure situation, accept that it is there, and then focus on yourself and what you need to do to reach your own personal goal. 

Pressure does not have to be negative but it does take time to learn to accept it and grab it with both hands and say “alright lets go see what I can do!”  You will feel it being an athlete so be prepared for it — that’s the hardest part, recognition and acceptance of pressure. If you recognize it, what ever form it may be, then you can try to control it.


Photo: John Cowpland / Alphapix


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