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Last Agora of the year: Strength of mind

On Tuesday at the Olympic Museum this week, tying in with the exhibition on the mind of a champion, there was a fascinating discussion during the Agora entitled Strength of the mind, the art of finding fulfilment and exceeding one’s limits. It was presented and chaired by journalist Jean-Philippe Rapp.

A wide range of athletes

The athletes present to talk about their experiences included Hassiba Boulmerka (athletics), Pascal Gentil (taekwondo), Marc Dobias (golf) and sailor Steve Ravussin. Swiss skier Pirmin Zurbriggen could not make it, because of a breakdown in the heating at his Zermatt hotel! This is an athlete who found a new direction for his life after his brilliant sporting career. He was replaced by the talented young tennis player, Timea Bacsinzsky.

Techniques used by some…

For the five athletes present, their stories were very different. Hassiba Boulmerka, with her impressive 1,500m record (world champion in 1991 and Olympic champion in 1992), had to train abroad, far from her family, because of the pressure from Islamic fundamentalists in her own country, Algeria. A double challenge, and a double reason for a tough mental attitude. Pascal Gentil, the taekwondo bronze medallist in 2000 and 2004, did not discover taekwondo until he was 18. He had to catch up with years of training, and so make a correspondingly greater effort.

…and by others

For Steve Ravussin, passion was the driving force and guide. Too bad that fate always seems to deal him a bad hand. Marc Tobias has his own technique: always appear strong to your opponent, even before the competition. This has a decisive effect on what follows. As for Timea Bacsinzsky, she knows that nothing is decided until the final ball – as numerous matches have shown! But all agree on one thing: the mind unquestionably governs the body.

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