In the eye of the hurricane: Helping a Danish sailor maintain present-moment focus and valued behavior during the turmoil of the 2016 Olympic Games

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“In the eye of a hurricane” was a metaphor used by a sailor during the 2016 Olympic Games. It described her intention to remain calm, present-moment focused and aware of her values, while at the same time a storm of media attention, results speculation, and social invitations was raging all around her.
The present paper outlines my work with a sailor during the Games. Through her story, I will illustrate key aspects of the way the sport psychology team of the Danish elite sport institution (Team Denmark) aims to help athletes deliver top performance in the most important and stressful events. These aspects are aligned with third wave cognitive mindfulness and acceptance based approaches.
The preparatory work included mindfulness training, functional behavioral analyses, accept strategies, formulation of personal values, and collaboration with the coach to develop game plans for the specific sailing courses in the bay of Rio. The sailing completion consisted of ten races over six days. During the games, daily sessions revolved around preparing for adversity. We formulated adversity scenarios and the sailor visualized of how she managed to deal with these scenarios in a value-based way while being mindful of the difficult emotions and thoughts that could potentially lure her into dysfunctional actions. In the end she was successful and won an Olympic medal.
Danish athletes often spontaneously view mental strength as the eternal presence of self-confidence and a corresponding absence of negative thoughts and emotions. Cases such as the present one have led the Team Denmark sport psychology team to develop a different definition of mental strength as: “The ability to act in accordance with your values and game plan even when you are under pressure and face difficult thoughts and emotions”.
Original languageEnglish
Publication date2017
Number of pages1
Publication statusPublished - 2017
Event14th World Conference on Sport Psychology - Sevilla, Spain
Duration: 10. Jul 201715. Jul 2017
Conference number: 14 (Final Program )


Conference14th World Conference on Sport Psychology
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