Late July saw the return of the Summer Olympics, after a year postponement caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.
In the weeks leading up to Tokyo, I spoke with a number of Olympic legends in a variety of sports.
Lindsey Vonn: Performance and mental health
Lindsey Vonn is known as one of the USA’s greatest Olympic athletes. Even though it was the Winter Olympics that was her beat, she’s equally as excited about the Summer Games in Tokyo. So also acknowledges that the Olympics conjures a certain feeling among athletes.
“The Olympics are a special moment. It’s a deep and moving experience, that’s just unlike anything else.”
But she notes that it’s not just physical preparation that Olympians need to tackle leading up to the games. There’s also a mental aspect of it that is important to master in order to maintain your performance and composure.
“I think we are a lot farther along in the process of making mental health more a topic that can be talked about,” Vonn said, saying also that athletes today are freer to talk about mental health and that it’s a good thing.
It’s also why Vonn has become outspoken on mental health in sports, and has taken up a role as an an Ambassador for Olympic sponsor Allianz, on the issue. A dog lover, Vonn said she brought her dog Lucy along with her at her last Olympics (at Vancouver 2010) has also spearheaded Allianz’s Olympic “Support Dog Squad” project.
Scottie Pippen: Olympic experience “wonderful”
NBA Hall of Famer and Chicago Bulls legend Scottie Pippen is a huge fan of the Olympics. He says Barcelona 1992 was one of the best experiences of his life. He credits his selection for and inclusion in the 1992 Dream Team.
“My experience with it was wonderful,” Pippen said in an interview with me for Forbes last summer. “It was different back then, because a lot of guys now look forward to playing on an Olympic team, but the ‘92 team was the first professional Olympic basketball team.”
“The opportunity to be a part of that first team was special.”
Hear Pippen talk in his own words about why the Olympics is such a big deal to young athletes.
Gabby Douglas on being Olympic fit
Three-time gold medalist and Team USA gymnast Gabby Douglas was always focused on the little things. Perfect form, strength, flexibility are all things that your average world class gymnast has to be on top of long before the Olympic torch is lit.
Gabby Douglass won two gold at London 2012 and one at Rio 2016
But Douglas also says that hydration is something that is relatively underrated for athletes—and that what you put into your body helps keeps the engine moving.
Douglas also adds that for this year’s Olympians, it’s a different ballgame.
“We’ve never had an Olympics postposed by a pandemic,” she says, “and COVID has changed everything.”
Douglas sayst the “reset” of many athletes’ own timeline and training regimen creates added pressure and potential physical stress. It’s one of the reasons that as a former Olympian, she’s a proud pitch woman for Smoothie King, and heralds their nutritious beverages which are especially designed to promote summer hydration.
“When you put fruit into water it maximizes your hydration.” Douglas said that she knows first hand how critical hydration and nutrition is for athletes.
Hear all three Olympians tell their stories in Episode 18.