The morning of Katie’s Big Day Posted 21st Aug
Ever wonder what it might feel like when you wake up on the day you might change your life forever?
Katie Taylor woke up this morning feeling more alive than she ever has in her life. It’s Olympic final day. It’s a day she has been dreaming about since she was nine years old, when she first got into the ring as she was being babysat by her Dad, Peter at the boxing club.
When you wake up on the morning of a big championship, it sometimes takes a few seconds for reality to kick in. You wake up as normal and after about five seconds, a wave of feelings come over you that are a mixture of fear, excitement, dread, nerves and anticipation. It’s the feeling you hate but live for at the same time.
Her routine will take over. She will be on automatic. She has lived in this routine for years and it has no doubt become a comfort blanket in times of stress and nerves. Every second will be accounted for right up until she steps into the ring. Nothing will be done differently. It’s the one thing you learn early on – don’t do anything on the day of a race that you haven’t done before. If you never have milk with your breakfast normally, don’t decide to do it on the day of your event. The finer details are that fine!
On the day of a major event you zone in completely. The only voices you can hear are your own (inner and outer), your coach, team mates and officials who are dealing with your race. You might meet someone in the event area and have a three minute conversation with them but have no idea what they are saying or have no recollection of even seeing them. Small talk is really difficult in this period just before the big moment. I used to keep speaking down to a minimum and try to calm myself down through music. Every ounce of your concentration is trained in on the impending deadline – showtime. You do what ever it takes to ensure that your routine goes to plan and that you get the best of every situation that might cost you time or energy. Thinking about countless possible scenarios of how the event is going to pan out is also a challenge. It stirs the pot of nerves. Keeping the mind clear and with positive visualisation when it does drift towards the event is an art that is developed over time.
It seems Katie and her Dad have created a world of routine and comfort, all designed towards high performance. I believe that this is where she gets a lot of her self confidence and assurance. She has never left her Bray base for pastures new and seems to have a formula that absolutely works. She is a happy athlete and this is reflected in her record. She will be using that formula to create a cocoon of comfort and normality as the time ticks towards her fight. It is strange the things that come into your mind before or during a big championship moment. She might contemplate her history and what she has gone through in order to reach this day intact and, lets face it, feared by her opposing finalist. Remembering something like a hard session or a race you did as a kid that was really brutal can sometimes be a great motivation, a reminder that this is the end point of a long, long journey you have been on.
What has been most impressive is her ability to deal with the pressure. The Irish public are great at dealing out pressure to their athletes and I have never before seen any Irish athlete handle it as well as Katie does. She makes it look easy, but it can’t be. It must be terrifying for her to walk out in to the Excel Arena to a frenzied Irish crowd but she does it with so much grace. I think her greatest triumph this week will be how she performed in amongst all that hysteria with the eyes of the nation (and the entire Olympics) looking to her for results. The support of a huge contingent of fans is amazing but is also a shock when you first encounter it after spending months in your preparation bubble, trying to keep away from the hype as much as possible.
When she steps into the ring she will emerge from her routine cocoon and face the unknown of an Olympic final. She will probably look over at her opponent and wonder whether it is actually happening or is it a dream. As soon as the bell sounds she will disappear into a familiar space that she knows and loves – the battle. The time for thinking about possible scenarios is over, it’s happening. The moment she has been visualising since she first stepped through the ropes of Bray Boxing Club all those years ago, is finally happening.