For many athletes competing in the Lausanne 2020 Winter Youth Olympic Games, fear is a challenging psychological hurdle.
Snowboarders take tumbles, speed skaters crash heavily and luge riders can be thrown out of the course at speeds of up to 140km per hour.
Every accident can have a physical and mental impact.
“If anyone says they’re not scared they’re lying,” said luge competitor, Florian Tanzer (AUT). “You have to use the fear to motivate yourself. You should be scared. You should have respect. When you begin, you’re six years old, but it’s fun. Of course you’re a bit nervous that something might go wrong, but you just have to focus so it doesn’t go wrong. Most of the time it works.”
Preparing for high speeds and unpredictable conditions is a vital component of some athletes’ competitive routines. In sports such as Alpine skiing, emotional control is considered every bit as important as the warm-up, or race tactics.
“I have breathing routines before my runs to control my heart rate and focus on what I need to do,” said 17-year-old, Matthew Ryan (IRL) who is competing in the men’s slalom, giant slalom, Super-G and Alpine combined events. “I breathe in for four (seconds), hold for four and breathe out for four. My coach taught me. Sometimes during the winter we do meditation classes, it’s good for relaxing.”
For the skaters competing at the St. Moritz Speed Skating Oval, the natural lake initially presented an intimidating surface.
“The first day we arrived at the frozen lake, I saw the track and was quite afraid of it,” said Hanna Biro (HUN). “I was scared of falling in the water, but the ice turned out to be fine. Before the start of the race I always tell myself that I can do it. It is hard for everyone, not just for me. The most important thing is not to think about falling, because if you do, you will actually crash.”
Some athletes have a bolder attitude when striving to overcome fear: they claim not to care.
“I don’t have any fear,” said Martin Krizaj (SLO) during the men’s giant slalom competition at Les Diablerets Alpine Centre. “I am carefree. I am not afraid of anything. Well, when it comes to skiing.”