Sports psychology at the Winter Olympics

The Winter Olympic Games occur every four years. Just like the summer games, this quadrennial cycle presents many challenges for Olympians. For instance, the games are multisport rather than single sport events; the opportunity to participate happens only once every four years rather than the usual annual schedule of international events; and the games generate greater scrutiny from the media, greater sponsorship opportunities and larger audiences with higher expectations.

The games test the mental fabric of Olympians because they are isolated from friends and family for several weeks, pressed to cope with unfamiliar stressors in the performance arena and dealt boundless organisational stress such as living with strangers in the Olympic village, coping with security checks, transportation, public expectation, injury and interpersonal conflict. 

The sport psychologist prepares to help the athletes cope with the new and unexpected challenges that greet them daily. First-time Olympians and veterans all require good counsel, an attentive listener or simply refuge when all other environs rob them of their space and comfort.

But the greatest strength lies within the security and stability of the Olympic team. This spirited, uncompromising and loyal family cheers every success, soothes every loss and knows that unity is strength.