Britain secured a record medal haul in Beijing because competitors learned how to imagine what winning was like – and it enhanced their performances.
Team GB lived the dream during the games, delivering the nation’s best performance for 100 years, with 19 gold medals. And it is that dream – and the visualisation of it as part of modern coaching methods – that experts believe has inspired the team to do so well.
The technique – a form of Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP) – has been successfully used to inspire success in America and Russia for decades.
Now it has become an essential part of training for people like triple gold medal winning cyclist Chris Hoy.
“Our athletes have always had the ability, but they did not truly believe they could win. Our success in Beijing is largely down to the fact that they now have that belief.”
“If you don’t know how to train this way, you don’t know how to achieve,” said international NLP expert and trainer Sonia Saxton, whose business, Saxton Partners, runs NLP courses which inspire people to achieve, in everything from busting company sales targets to communicating better as a team.
“The Americans and the Russians have always been better at dreaming and fulfilling those dreams. Now we have caught them up.
“If people can visualise winning and what it is like to hear the crowd as they cross the winning line and what it feels like to win, it becomes a reality to them and their mind shifts their perception of what is possible and enhances their performance.
“In the last few years NLP techniques have been top of the list and now coaches are a lot more experienced in athletes helping themselves mentally. Understanding the psychology plays a bigger role because that is what achieves the results.”
During preparation for Beijing, Hoy said: “Visualisation is a very important part. It’s good to go through every little detail of the race in your mind beforehand.
“Then when it comes to race day, you are prepared and you know what to expect. A major part of it is having self-belief.”
Sonia Saxton added: “When Roger Bannister ran the first four-minute mile, he didn’t think it was possible until he imagined doing it. He saw it in his mind and imagined he had already done it, heard his feet hitting the ground, and felt physically what it was like to have achieved his dream. He overcame the belief that it wasn’t possible.”