My decision to withdraw from the Canadian Championships last week was absolutely the right decision. Without the stress and worry of not being fully ready for competition, the week turned out to be incredibly productive. I was a man on a mission and I had some amazing training!
I made training my priority last week (the week of Nationals is usually an opportunity to get overloaded with interviews, school visits, autograph signings etc. and forget about taking care of #1). I made my media schedule conducive to a little breather before my training started. I cut off my autograph signings at the time I said I would because I needed to get to the gym. I am usually the type of guy who will sign until the very last person gets their turn, but this week I needed to be a bit selfish. I hope I didn't disappoint any kids...
I was in uplifted spirits all week. You know how sometimes you see people and you just tell them that you are doing awesome, but it's not a genuine, heart felt and believable "I'm Awesome!". Well, last week I actually believed myself when I told people how I was doing because quite frankly, I felt bloody awesome all week long! I felt like everything was starting to fall into place and I felt excited about the surprises I am going to show people when I am back into the mix in a few weeks.
I felt like people didn't know if they should believe me or not when I told them I am doing great. In all reality, I withdrew from the competition and no one really saw me train. What would I expect them to believe based on the evidence. I trained in my 'home' gym and not in the 'Nationals' training gym with the rest of the crew. It's hard to predict where a gymnast really is at unless you see them train. I guess I was in top secret training mode. I felt like I was completely in the background getting myself prepared...kind of like Rocky or something. Eye of the Tiger! I wasn't in the spotlight or the forefront and coming to my training session was like an exclusive "invitation only" kind of deal. I felt like a musician preparing for their tour and only a few people got backstage passes to see the rehearsal.
But those who did come (our National coach Edouard, my former coach Kelly, my good friends Chris and Cindy Waller) told me that they were blown away! It was a great feeling to get promising reviews from people who's opinions I really value.
My hard work is paying off. It really is. Things are starting to feel easier every day. I know that I am getting into great shape when I come into the gym and my brain is a little tired, but my body is able to do my routines. That, to me, is the difference between getting into shape and being in shape; being in shape means that you don't have to think too much.
One of my teammates, Nathan (who you might remember as the 'amazing' singer in some of my previous videos), had a rough day on Thursday. He is a highbar genius, but couldn't put it together during Thursday's competition. He looked like a deer in headlights and he came off of the bar a couple of times. After finishing up his routine he walked away and looked like he had just seen someone get hit by a car (I think he felt like he was run over by a bus). I took him into the back training gym and let him vent out his frustrations to me. He was clearly upset at his inability to go out there and show the judges, the coaches and the audience how great he actually is on highbar. When he expressed this to me, something inside of my own brain clicked...he was thinking too much before he went. He was thinking about the judges. He was thinking about the coaches (granted, Edouard our National coach was standing right there with intimidation written all over his face!). He was thinking too much about the outcome of the routine and not enough about the actual performance. Uh huh! Eureka. A discovery was made. Thinking too much before a routine can actually make the routine go bad. I think that an athletes biggest enemy is themselves and sometimes their own thoughts. When you salute the judge you need to let your body take over and turn your brain off.
So what does an athlete do when they have had a disastrous performance and must finish the competition. I guess there are 2 options. 1. Dwell on it and suck even more. 2. Accept that it happened, get focused and fight like you've never fought before on your next events. Luckily, Nathan chose option 2 and rocked his floor routine. I like to call it the "F%$^ it, F%$^ that, F#$% what happened, F#$% everyone and get F^%$in focused!" option. The heat of the moment makes me say the "F" word a lot! I should have been a trucker...
Watching my teammates compete gave me butterflies. Firstly because I am excited about getting out there and competing, but secondly because our team is on FIRE! The guys all looked awesome. Of course, there were a few mistakes, but that is perfectly fine 2 months before the games. It gives you something to work on and will keep you working hard towards the Olympics. Sometimes when you are perfect too early then you get bored and training seems like a chore, but when you have improvements to make then you feel inspired. I guess the thought of "being better than you already are" turns the crank of many athletes, me included.
This men's team is the best Canada has ever produced. We have a core group of guys who could all legitimately be on the team. We have never experienced this depth before and I think it will lead us to achieving history in Beijing!
Congratulations to all of the guys on another successful Nationals. I'm looking forward to spending the next 2 months training beside them rather than in the background!