Rebecca Adlington: Mental strength just as important as physical, says two-time Olympic gold medalist


Rebecca Adlington: “I openly used a sports psychologist. I think it was one of the best things I did in my career, for the mental aspect. Having those tools to deal with the pressure, the expectation, a home Olympics and everything else, really benefitted me”

Last Updated: 18/01/22 11:23am

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Two-time Olympic gold medallist Rebecca Adlington discusses a new initiative to encourage people to be both physically and mentally strong.

Two-time Olympic gold medallist Rebecca Adlington discusses a new initiative to encourage people to be both physically and mentally strong.

Two-time Olympic gold medal winner Rebecca Adlington has said hiring a sports phycologist was “one of the best things I did in my career”, as the former British swimmer spoke to Sky Sports News about the importance of mental strength in sport.

Adlington won the 400-metre freestyle and 800-metre freestyle double at the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing at only 18 years of age. She then had to deal with the pressure of being the face of a home Olympics in London 2012, where she won bronze medals in both of the same events.

Speaking as part of Fitbit’s ‘What’s Strong With You?’ campaign, aimed at encouraging people to make a strong commitment to themselves this year, Adlington said: “Mine is to look after myself. I think that is a really important one, especially with health being so high up on everyone’s priority list.

“I think the word strong means so many different things to different people. When I was an athlete, being strong used to be a lot more about how strong I was physically.

“Whereas since retiring, it has kind of changed for me – it’s a lot more about the emotional, the mental side of things. It’s a lot more about finding positivity every day and that balance and self-care.

Rebecca Adlington won two bronze medals under the weight of a lot of expectation at her home Olympics in London 2012

Rebecca Adlington won two bronze medals under the weight of a lot of expectation at her home Olympics in London 2012

Adlington added: “I openly used a sports psychologist. I think it was one of the best things I did in my career, for the mental aspect.

“Having those tools to deal with the pressure, the expectation, a home Olympics and everything else, really benefitted me.

“A lot of people talk about the mental strength you need vs the physical, but I think they go hand in hand – they’re 50/50, you need both sides.

“I’ve seen people do amazing things when they’re not physically fit because mentally they’re just there, and vice versa.”

Adlington also spoke of it being an exciting time for British Swimming following their success at the Tokyo Olympics in 2021, where Team GB finished third in the medal table for swimming behind only the USA and Australia with eight medals, four of which were gold.

“We absolutely smashed Tokyo,” Adlington said. “It’s really exciting because we’ve got the Commonwealth games this year, in our home country in Birmingham, which will be incredible.

“I think the guys are really looking forward to that, something back on home turf, which is always an excitement and a buzz.

“We’ve also got the World Championship this year and then Paris [2024 Olympics] is just around the corner. I think we’ll keep the momentum going; there was that long gap of five years, but now only having three, I think they’re in a really good place mentally, physically, they’re ready for it and hungry for that success already.”





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