Sunday, August 31, 2008

Venus Williams on Mental Mindset: Relaxing the Need to Be Perfect

"I think I'm definitely at my best now.

"I think I understand the game more. Trying different kind of shots, too, lately. Trying to add some variety.

"I think the Wimbledon win helped me a lot to change my mentality, to realize not everything had to be perfect all the time.

"That's helped me -- if I don't have a perfect practice, I don't get really upset about the whole tournament. I think that helps me to relax."

--Venus Williams, five-time Wimbledon champion and Olympic gold medal womens' doubles winner in Beijing, discussing the importance of confidence and relaxation after her third round victory at the U.S. Open on Saturday, August 30, 2008.

Excerpt from 8/30/2008.

Torii Hunter: The Vision in His Head

"I got that picture in my head, but we got a long way to go, a long journey. When you get in the playoffs, everything is going to be different. … We could win 100-plus games, and it does not matter. When you get to the postseason, you got to change. You got to be totally different. Any mistake you make, you're going home."

--Torii Hunter, Los Angeles Angels outfielder.

Since winning the 2002 World Series, the Los Angeles Angels have been beaten by the Boston Red Sox in 2004 in a sweep in an AL Division Series; lost to Chicago, who won four of five in the AL Championship Series; and, endured another sweep in 2007 in the first round by the Red Sox.

"I'm not just out for money. The money is the money. I grew up with nothing. You give me what you give me, that's fine. But you can either have $120 million and suck, and lose, and not be in the postseason, not get that ring you worked so hard to try to get. Or you can go get enough [money] and win. Right here is enough for me.

"I definitely feel like this team is built to win the World Series. Not just getting to the playoffs. I think we're built to win it."

--Torii Hunter, who spent 15 years with the Minnesota Twins organization, discussing his feelings the season after signing a five-year, $90 million contract.

The Angels have the best road record in the major leagues and were the first team to reach 60 wins this year. The first team to 60 victories has advanced to the World Series in each of the past four seasons.

At least Torii is aligned with owner, Arte Moreno, who bought the team in 2003.

"I need a ring. I want a ring."

--Arte Moreno, Los Angeles Angels' owner, who came into the clubhouse and pulled up a chair next to Hunter, to express his desire.

Excerpts from 8/31/2008.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Trying to Improve by Overcoming Emotions

At the Australian Open in January of 2008, Janko Tipsarevic extended Roger Federer, then the No. 1 player in the world, to the brink of defeat before losing, 10-8, in the fifth and last set.

In the process, he was able to reveal weaknesses in Federer’s game that other players, included Novak Djokovic, who defeated Federer in Melbourne, and others have since gone on to further expose and fully exploit.

“I would like to think that that match helped some of the players see this guy is vulnerable. Even though I lost, it helped me realize I can beat anybody. My first problem is myself. I’m not blaming anybody else.

“I’d love for my progress to go a little bit faster. I’m in my prime. There are no excuses that I’m young or something like that.

"You will have good results when you see these top players are not as good as you think they are in your head.”

--Janko Tipsarevic, who after finishing 2007 ranked #52, rose to a career-high #33 in May of 2008.

Nonetheless, thus far, Tipsarevic has not yet mastered the skill of "mind over matter." He sustained an injury in the first round of the 2008 U.S. Open and had to retire.

Excerpts from the New York Times, 8/28/2008.

Leadership Comes to Georgia Tech Football

“He has brought a whole new atmosphere to this team.”

--Jahi Word-Daniels, senior cornerback at Georgia Tech, commenting on what new coach Paul Johnson has brought to the team.

“It’s not just his offense; he teaches toughness, he shows a sense of pride, a sense of determination. The best way to do that is get involved, and he’s involved with his team.”

-- Mike Sewak, co-offensive line coach, who has known Johnson for 23 years.

Johnson was hired by Georgia Tech after he was 45-29 in six seasons at the U.S. Naval Academy. Navy went 2-10 in Johnson’s first year, but then compiled records of 8-5, 10-2, 8-4, 9-4, and 8-4.

Johnson has been successful for quite a long time. After winning two consecutive Division I-AA national championships at Georgia Southern in 1999 and 2000, Johnson was hired by Navy starting with the 2002 season. He inherited a program that was 1-20 in its previous two years.

In 2007, Navy beat Notre Dame for the first time in 43 seasons. Perhaps most importantly, Johnson was 11-1 against Army (6-0) and Air Force, the Naval Academy’s two biggest rivals.

“He is incredibly confident, the most confident coach I have been around, bordering on cocky.”

--Andrew Gardner, a senior left tackle.

Johnson has reason to be confident. To turn around the program, Johnson has brought a proven system to solve the team's mediocre performance problems.

“One of the things I saw here was a huge split; there were a lot of groups and niches on the team, it was dysfunctional. Certain guys probably didn’t talk to certain other guys. I talked to each player and asked why they were not more successful, and it was always somebody else’s fault.”

“There is no magic elixir. The thing we try to do is get good at what we do. We rep it. If their defense can get better at stopping it in one week of preparation than you can in running it for 19 weeks, they are going to beat you, anyway.

“The guys who have been successful for a long time, that’s what they do, stick to the system. You don’t change it every week. The guys that get in trouble sometimes run a little of this and little of that.”

--Paul Johnson.
On Thursday night, 8/28/2008, the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets opened the 2008 season with a 41-14 win over Jacksonville State. The new Georgia Tech triple-option offense, much criticized before the season, was very effective as Georgia Tech ran for 349 yards and six touchdowns and produced 484 total yards.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Michael Phelps, Leaving a Legacy

"My only real goal is to leave the sport bigger and better than I found it."

--Michael Phelps, in 2005, when asked by Dick Ebersol of NBC if he would be open to swimming events in the morning to enhance Olympic coverage on television in the United States.

Taken from the New York Times, 8/25/2008.

Chad Pennington, Miami Dolphins

"Winning is a habit. You have to practice the winning. You can't say, 'We'll pick it up in the regular season.' Good teams don't have a split where they turn it on and turn it off. They're on all the time. That's a habit we're trying to form."

--Chad Pennington, newly announced starting quarterback for the Miami Dolphins.

"Fro the day he got here, just the demeanor and the way guys are motivated, has changed a lot. He brought the leadership that we've been missing at the quarterback position. Believe me, he tells you if you can do something better."

--Derek Hagen, wide receiver, Miami Dolphins.

“From the very first snap in practice, you could feel his confidence. It helped all of us to believe in ourselves, to believe in what we can do as an offense and as a team.”

--Ricky Williams, running back, Miami Dolphins.

Pennington, formerly of the New York Jets, was obtained by the Dolphins after eight seasons (five playoff games) with the Jets.

Excerpts from the New York Times, 8/26/08 & 9/4/08.

Professional Tennis: Pressure to Stay on Top

"In tennis, they don't consider anyone ranked 10. If you're the 10th-best baseball player or pro football player, you're considered pretty special. If you're the 10th-best tennis player, you're nothing."

--Gardnar Mulloy, member of the International Tennis Hall of Fame, referring to the talk about Roger Federer and the chances of him "coming back."

Excerpts from the New York Times 8/25/08.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Team USA Brings Back the Gold in Men's Basketball

"It's about winning with dignity. It's showing humility, showing respect for the game and the people in the game internationally.

"The fact that we had this team for three years was the telling difference in this game. It was a great game. It was a pressure game from the get-go, and we never cracked. The fact that we were together for this period of time was the difference.”

--Jerry Colangelo, former owner of the Phoenix Suns, who was given responsibility for bring the USA team back to prior glory.

"We played with great character in one of the great games in international basketball history, I think."

--U.S. coach Mike Krzyzewski.

"What you saw today was a team bonding together, facing adversity and coming out with a huge win."

--Kobe Bryant, who scored 20 points in the final game.

Dwayne Wade led the team with 27 points.

"If it wasn't for the determination and willpower we had, we wouldn't be back on top of the world, which is where we are."

--LeBron James.

"We stayed at the soccer matches to see the U.S. women get their gold medals - just to see what that was going to be like.

"We had our flag and we were holding our flag and waving it around, just to support them, just to see their families, how they interacted with them - with the emotion that comes along with that.

"Months and months and months of preparation - it was good for us to see that and draw inspiration from that."

--Kobe Bryant.

"We are very, very proud of the way our players have conducted themselves, how engaging they've been during the entire Olympics ...They scored a 10 on a scale of 1 to 10," said Colangelo.

“It wasn’t so much individual stuff and individual talent. It was more teamwork, probably well-directed by their coaching staff.

“I’ve seen the guys hungry and want to get back to the top. That’s what they’ve done. They were able to get to the top again and show that they should be in first place, but they had to work for it.”

--Pau Gasol, Spain's top player and current NBA player, who scored 21 points in the final in a losing cause.

Watch the gold medal game highlights on, or click on:

Friday, August 22, 2008

USA Basketball Team: Playing for Gold Against Spain on Sunday

"We expect the same type of heart of a champion that we played against tonight in Argentina.”

--Coach K, USA men's head basketball coach, discussing the mental mindset of the opponents in the Olympics' medal rounds.

"Anybody who has aspirations to be a champion, you understand that there's a sense of pride that comes along with beating a champion."

--Kobe Bryant, discussing motivations as Team USA prepares for a battle with defending world champion, Spain.

"This is why I'm here, to keep everyone's composure. Those other were dress rehearsals; these are the ones that count."

--Jason Kidd, 35, starting point guard, who took control of the game with Argentina with his leadership and experience.

Kidd lead a 12-4 rally at the start of the third quarter by discussing individual roles with the team at halftime and settling down the tempo of the game.

"It's a great honor to be a part of this team. At 35, this is my last go-around. To say that I can play for a gold medal and play with this group of guys, it's unbelievable," says Kidd.

Excerpts from the New York Times 8/23/08.

Team USA: Back on Track with a New Game Plan

Since the disappointment of winning the bronze medal in Athens in 2004, the USA Basketball program has revamped how they select the team and how they approach the international game.

"They've found the way to play the FIBA game, and they're playing way better. They have players that are superstars, but they have a commitment, they want to win and they prepare, and they know what they're doing."

--Luis Scola, team member of Argentina Olympic basketball team and current NBA player.

Team USA is playing in the semifinals against Argentina today for a spot in the gold medal game in Sunday.

Excerpts from 8/21/2008.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Michael Phelps, Peak Performance Case Study

"I executed the plan, nearly to perfection."

--Michael Phelps.

There will be many people that will look everywhere for the secret of Michael Phelps' success as a swimmer. One need not look far. His mother, revealed the secrets to Robin Roberts on Good Morning America on ABC television, August 20th, 2008.

Research suggests that consistent peak performance consists of seven competencies: a passionate vision, the ability to fast-forward, the proper mindset, the development of a game plan, deliberate practice, perfect execution, and continuous performance review.

Debbie Phelps reveals the key peak performance competencies as practiced by Michael Phelps during the preparation for his stunning performance in Beijing.

Success Requires Having a Game Plan, Discipline, Patience, and Execution

"It was just remarkable execution of what Michael hoped to do and had a passion for."

--Debbie Phelps, Michael's mother.

"It took a regimen, a routine, a schedule. It took time and patience," said Debbie Phelps, who gave her son the support and guidance he needed to succeed.

"I'm not the agent. I'm not the coach. I'm the mom."

"Michael had a plan of action. He had a game plan. He knew exactly what he wanted to do," she said.

To view the accompanying article and the entire interview with Debbie Phelps on Good Morning America, go to:

Team USA Leader: LeBron James

“I knew it had to come from someone. It doesn’t matter how good individuals are, if you don’t have a leader, it’s not going to be right. I took that responsibility from Day 1, saying I’m going to be the vocal leader and I’m going to be the leader of this team.”

“For me, I’m a complete team player. I’m probably the ultimate team player. I’ll sacrifice whatever for the success of the team.”

--LeBron James, USA basketball player, discussing the leadership role he has taken at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Usain Bolt: "Lightning" Strikes Twice

“What Bolt has done, he’s made history. He added spirit to the sport. He danced for us in the introduction. He danced for us at the end. He put on a show. To me, I feel like, him and athletics is like Michael Phelps and swimming. He raised the bar for us in athletics.”

--Shawn Crawford, USA silver medal winner in the 200 meters.

Usain Bolt, already the Olympic champion and world record-holder in the 100 meters, ran the 200 meters in 19.30 seconds, breaking the world record by two-hundredths of a second. Bolt broke the world record of 19.32 seconds, set by the American Michael Johnson at the 1996 Atlanta Games. Bolt is the first to win gold in both the 100- and 200-meter events since Carl Lewis in 1984.

“I didn’t think I’d see under .30 in my lifetime. He’s a freak of nature."

--Renaldo Nehemiah, former Olympic gold medalist in the 100 hurdles.

“It was the most impressive athletic performance I have ever seen in my life.”

--Michael Johnson.

Excerpts from the New York Times 8/20/2008.

Rewind: Shawn Johnson Wins Gold on the Balance Beam

“She showed a lot of mental toughness to get through some very difficult days here. She showed the maturity, fighting day after day after day. I am so proud of her because I believe she really deserves this gold.”

--Liang Qiao, Shawn Johnson’s long-time coach.

"I finished off the Olympic Games with, to me, the most perfect ending ever. To finally get the gold medal ... on my very last routine meant the world to me. To finally have a gold and be an Olympic gold medalist, it's what everyone dreams of. It's so exciting. It's the best feeling ever."

--Shawn Johnson.

U.S.A. Mens' Basketball Team Defeats Australia Easily in Olympic quarterfinals

"I think people should understand that they changed the system and that this system is right. You need to keep guys together, make a commitment. It doesn't guarantee success. It guarantees you a chance."

--Mike D'Antoni, new New York Knicks head coach and assistant USA assistant coach to head coach Mike Krzyzewski, referring to the changes made by the USA Basketball management to attempt to return the gold to the United States.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Yelena Isinbaeva, Russian Gold Medal Winner in the Women's Pole Vault

"I love to be alone at the top. It's so cool and I will try to keep my position as long as possible."

--Yelena Isinbaeva, world record holder in the women’s pole vault and 2008 gold medal winner in Beijing.

She added that she still believed in what she said after she won the world title in Osaka last year that no one could beat her but herself.

The winning height is 25cm higher than her closest competitor. She has completely dominated women’s pole vaulting for the last four years and has rarely been tested by rivals.

The 26-year-old has been the world record holder since July 2004 and has now raised the bar on 24 occasions.

"I like to prove it, not just say it. I like to prove who is the best and who is the strongest.

"I don't know how high I can go. My coach says I can go 5.20m or higher and I trust him," says Isinbaeva.

To see her win the gold and set a new world record, click, or go to:

Bonus: On the same video, watch the coach of Jennifer Stuczynski, the U.S. silver medalist in the women's pole vault, inappropriately give her a tongue lashing after she won the silver.

Also, Watch Yelena Isinbaeva in a beautiful tribute video at:

Focus: “You don’t train for silver.” -- Shawn Johnson

Shawn Johnson, U.S. gymnast, after winning three silver medals, finally gets a gold in the individual balance beam.

“Having three silvers is hard. I was hoping she would get the gold medal and we could say that we are both Olympic champions.”

--Nastia Liukin, teammate and gold medalist in the women's all-around.

Excerpts from the New York Times, 8/19/08.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Rewind: Michael Phelps' Olympic triumph

"There have been so many greats who have come before me, and what Mark [Spitz] did is still amazing. It's a very hard thing to accomplish. I think it shows whatever you put your mind to, you really can accomplish."--Michael Phelps.

Bob Bowman, Michael Phelps’ Swim Coach: Building a Swimming Machine

“You’ve got to understand how monotonous and boring our training is, and hard.”

--Bob Bowman, Michael Phelps’ coach.


“My job is to be in the water and swim. That’s about it.”

--Michael Phelps, discussing his intense focus.

“Nothing. I just get in the water and race.”

--Phelps, when asked about what goes through his mind during a race.

Peak performing athletes are produced by a confluence of factors; "a perfect storm of circumstance." These athletes must, of course, have rare natural talents and abilities; the opportunity and access to use state-of-the-art training and coaching; and a set of mental and psychological characteristics, including ferocious ambition, discipline and a capacity for self-sacrifice.

Michael Phelps has been Bob Bowman’s all-consuming project ever since Bowman found Phelps and decided “to build the perfect machine.”

He started the preteen Phelps on intense six-days-a-week practice regimens, often making him swim more than once a day, to work systematically on his mechanics, his endurance and his strength. He recognized Phelps’s potential aerobic capacity, challenging him to swim at least 50 miles each week. He knew that prepubescent children can, through training, increase the size of their hearts and lungs in ways that are no longer possible later on.

“The larger the heart and lungs,” he has noted, “the bigger the aerobic engine.” Beginning when Phelps was 12, he worked the swimmer seven days a week, guided by the assumption that competitors who rested on Sundays were at least one-seventh less conditioned. “Michael has a pretty easy life, if you don’t count the five hours a day of torture I put him through,” Bowman said.

Discipline and Preparation

Bowman is High Performance Coach of Club Wolverine, the elite Ann Arbor, Mich., swimming organization, whose members include Phelps. From 2004 until his resignation earlier this year, Bowman was also the head coach of the University of Michigan’s swim team.

Bowman’s current training regimen for Phelps included thin-air training, a proven and perfectly legal means of boosting an athlete’s red-blood-cell count, which increases the oxygen delivered to muscles. Training schedules featured three sessions in the pool per day and an additional hour of “dry land” activities like weight training or Pilates, for a total of 70 workouts over a three week period.

Although Bowman was dedicated to mixing up the training regimen to keep his swimmers from getting too comfortable or complacent, he followed certain patterns: the early session featured 90 minutes of low-key, continuous aerobic exertion — three or four miles of wake-up laps. Midday practice was an intense two-hour affair, putting the swimmers through their paces at top speeds or at the very threshold of their endurance; dry-land work followed for an hour. Later in the afternoon, the day’s final workout focused on muscle power rather than lung power, featuring drills with parachutes, fins, paddles, kick boards, floats, limb-disabling bands, snorkels and other accouterments designed to isolate particular skills. Bowman made sure that his swimmers had little time or energy left at the end of the day for anything but eating, sleeping and occasionally slumping in front of the television.

Phelps, who is said to require 8,000 to 10,000 calories a day to sustain his efforts, spent much of his free time napping or in pursuit, as he puts it, of “whatever I want to eat, whenever I want it, however much I want.”

Performance Feedback

“Swim-power tests” were administered to transmit measurements of velocity and force 60 times each second. A camera mounted on a track on the pool wall followed Phelps him down the lane and another camera filmed him from below. The apparatus, which Genadijus Sokolovas developed, analyzes a swimmer’s effectiveness according to 25 to 30 different parameters and gives coaches a way to quantify the costs of a swimmer’s mechanical flaws.

“Before this,we were just guessing — high elbow position is better than low elbow position, or pulling in the middle is better than pulling from the side. Now we can test any hypothesis.

The Future

“I’m pretty sure his records will be broken in 5 to 10 years. The swimmers who are going to do this are already in the system.”

“There is no point at which athletes can’t continue to improve. You can always do higher-intensity training, or maybe higher volumes. A swimmer can do more training on land; or more strength training in water, like swimming against resistances. You can improve your technique. You can improve your nutrition. Basically, I don’t see any limits in swim performance. We’ll never build the perfect swimmer. The records will go up and up.”

--Genadijus Sokolovas, a former pentathlete from Lithuania and the sports-science director for USA Swimming.

Excerpts from Play: The New York Times Sports Magazine, 8/3/2008.

Rewind: Shawn Johnson Gains Perspective

"Of course, when you're training your whole life to get to the Olympics, you train for gold. But honestly a silver around my neck three times at the Olympics means more to me than anything."

--Shawn Johnson, USA world champion gymnast, who has won three silver medals in the 2008 Beijing Olympics, but has failed to score gold thus far. She has one more chance in the balance beam competition.

For more on Shawn Johnson, including an article and video click on The Freedom to Fail on,

or click on:

Excerpts from the New York Times 8/18/2008.

Vision: Michael Phelps Looks at the Future

"I don't want this sport to be an every-four-years sport. In between the four years, there's really not as much exposure as I'd like.

"My whole goal is to change the sport of swimming in a positive way. I think it can go even farther. That's where I hope to take it.

"I just want people to get involved. This sport has changed my life and allowed me to do so many things."

--Michael Phelps, thinking about the future of swimming and his role in it. Phelps also plans to return to the Olympics as a competitor in London in 2012.

"Michael is the biggest thing that sport has ever seen. Not swimming, but sport in general. He just made the pressure putt to win the U.S. Open. He just won the Tour of France. He just knocked out Muhammad Ali. And he did it in one week."

--Brendan Hansen, fellow U.S. Olympic swimmer and teammate on the medley relay that helped Micheal Phelps make history.

Excerpts from the New York Times 8/18/2008.

Brett on Broadway

"The only think I'm trying to bring to this team is leadership and some experience that I've gained along the way. Maybe a little magic."

--Brett Favre, New York Jets' quarterback, on his role with the team.

New Green Bay Packers' QB: Aaron Rodgers

With legend Bret Favre, a three-time NFL Most Valuable Player, now a New York Jet, Aaron Rodgers is now the quarterback in Green Bay. The pressure is great. He has handled it well thus far.

"He's done a great job of handling it. I think he has special things inside of him. I think this will make him tough, and has made him continue to build and grow and continue his maturation process. That's not predictive of anything in the future, but I do think he's done very, very well with it."

--Aaron Kampman, Green Bay Packers' defensive end and Rodgers' training camp roommate.

"We think he's got a pretty good perspective on things. He's able to roll with the punches and play the cards he's dealt. I think he understands that, as an athlete at this stage of his career, there are some things he's not totally in control of. His job is, when he comes out here, to lead this football team and play as well he possibly can."

--Joe Philbin, Packers' offensive coordinator.

"I know the pressure that's going to be on me just following a legend. There's going to be a lot of pressure on me just being a quarterback. In this situation, when you're following a guy who played for 15 years here and amassed the kind of numbers that Brett did, I understand standards are high.

"I have high expectations for myself. I know my teammates have high expectations for my play, and so does the coaching staff and the personnel department. I know I'm expected to play at a high level, and I expect it as well."

--Aaron Rodgers, who played at the University of California and was drafted as a number one pick in 2005.

Excerpts from the New York Times 8/17/08.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Michael Phelps, Relaxation Equals Gold

“I’m able to relax and I’m having fun.” --Michael Phelps.

Michael Phelps, 23, tied Mark Spitz’s record of seven gold medals in one Olympics by winning Saturday morning’s 100-meter butterfly.

Phelps' eighth and last race will be Sunday’s 4x100 medley relay.

“That may be one of the reasons I’m swimming so fast. I’ve never been this relaxed," said Phelps.

Manny Being Manny as a Los Angeles Dodger

"He's going to help them relax. When I talk to hitters, I tell them about staying tension free. Manny's life is tension free."

--Charlie Manual, Philadelphia Phillies manager, who managed Ramirez in the minor leagues and worked with him as a Cleveland Indians' hitting coach.

Manny Ramirez is batting .438 with 5 home runs and 16 runs batted in since his trade from the Boston Red Sox. The Los Angeles Dodgers are 8-5 since the trade and are in a tie for first place with Arizona in the National League West. The Dodgers are above .500 for the first time since May.

Excerpts taken from the New York Times.

Usain Bolt: Fast and Relaxed

"I didn't know I was going to run so fast, but I came out to be a champion, and I was. I just tried to stay relaxed. I'm always relaxing. That's the way to go so fast: relax and just focus.

"I came out to make myself proud, and I did just that. I didn't know I was going to run so fast. But I came out to be a champion, and I was. I didn't come here to worry about the record, I was already the world-record holder."

--Usain Bolt, new 100-meter Olympic sprint champion and world record holder at 9.69 secords.

Bolt could have run much faster than his 9.69 seconds if he had run through the finish line, but he sliced 0.03 seconds off his world record anyway. He celebrated 20 meters early, throwing out his arms and thumping his chest.

"He's the best. There's no stopping him. He could have been faster."

--Asafa Powell, former world-record holder and fellow Jamaican.

"It's not even close. It's everybody catching up with Usain Bolt. He's a legend in his own right. The guy's a phenomenal athlete. He's a freak of nature. He's like Jordan and LeBron, in a league of his own."

--Darvis Patton, U.S.A. Olympic sprinter who finished eighth in the 100 meters.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Teamwork and Collaboration Turns to Gold

"Just hearing ‘Olympic champion' next to my name is the greatest feeling in the world," ---Nastia Liukin, USA gymnast and 2008 Beijing Olympics champion in the women’s all-around gymnastics competition.

Nastia Liukin, gold medal winner in the all-around and Shawn Johnson, silver medal winner are genuine friends. Eighteen-year-old Nastia, from Texas, and 16-year-old Shawn, from Iowa, have been roommates in the Olympic village. Now they are linked together forever in Olympic history as gold and silver medal winners.

"We both supported each other 100 percent, and we just wanted to go out there and give it our all and have fun, because this is the games," Liukin said. "There is nothing bigger or greater than this."

"We push each other both to the limit. The few years that we have competed with each other, we've both wanted it so bad that we push each other so much. I think that we became better and stronger gymnasts because of each other.

"I think if it had just been one of us, there wouldn't be someone chasing your tail, wanting you to make you work even harder.

"So I think we have both made each other a stronger athlete, a stronger person,” said Liukin.

"I gave my heart and soul out there today. Nastia deserved the gold."
--Shawn Johnson.

"I feel like this journey has been so long, There have been so many battles and injuries, just to be at the Olympic Games is amazing,” said Liukin, looking back at her struggles.

To give Nastia a sprinkle of additional motivation during Liukin’s Olympic preparation, Nastia’s mother, Anna, a former rhythmic gymnast, had an idea. She brought Nastia’s father’s Russian men's gymnastics gold medal from 20 years ago to Nastia's room.

"One day she came up there and she brought up his Olympic gold medal and just kind of hung it on the little board, next to it, so I saw it every single day when I woke up and it just gave me that extra motivation. Just having it there in my room, knowing that in a few months, hopefully, I can have one of these of my own,” Nastia said.

Discussing her frame of mind when competing for the gold in the all-round medal round in Beijing, Nastia stated, "I knew I would have to go for it. I wasn't thinking about whether I could make it, but how I could make it. This is what my father taught me."

Excerpts taken from and New York Times.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Jeff Samardzija, Chicago Cubs pitcher

"Once he got up where he could smell it, his character kind of took over. It doesn't happen often, but it happens with a guy lilke him. He's one of those guys who likes to shine in the big moment. We thought he'd be a guy who, when he got here, could deal with the second deck. He likes the big stage. We understood that early on."

--General Manager Jim Hendry, Chicago Cubs, discussing the ability of Jeff Samardzija to succeed in the major leagues after a less than stellar year and a half stint as a starter in the minor leagues.

Jeff Samardzija, a former star Notre Dame college football wide receiver, is currently a relief pitcher with the major league Chicago Cubs.

As if Monday, August 11, 2008, he has a low earned run average of 1.59 in 11 1/2 innings. Refusing a potential career in the NFL, Samardzija, a boyhood fan of the Cubs, signed a 5-year, $10 million dollar contract in January 2007 with Chicago.

Excerpts from the New York Times 8/11/08.

In case you missed it.........

I found a great article in On Par: Golfing with Bill Pennington in the New York Times of 8/11/08. You will find his take on preparation for a golfing round and the importance of the right frame of mind.

Take a look at:

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Michael Phelps, Feats of Olympic Greatness

“He’s not from another planet. He’s from the future.”

--Simon Burnett, British freestyler, describing Michael Phelps to Eddie Reese, U.S. Olympic swimming coach.

Michael Phelps collected his fourth and fifth gold medals in the Beijing Olympics, becoming the career leader in Olympic gold medals with 11.

“I’m having fun,” Phelps said. “I’ve never been this relaxed.” He added, “I think one of the reasons I’ve been able to be like this is because I’ve been there before.”

“Michael kind of performs independently of his feelings.”

--Bob Bowman, Michael Phelps long-time coach.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Handling Pressure in Beijing


“Growing up, even though breaststroke was my worst stroke, I wanted to swim it. I wanted to race in it. I didn’t care. I like challenges.”

--Michael Phelps, responding to questions about the pressure he felt when having to meet the challenge of an 2008 Olympic medley race.


"I just tried to stay in my own little box. my own little world and ignore what was going on around me. I knew there were things happening around me that I couldn't control, so I really tried to stay focused. Sometimes, I talk to myself to keep my mind busy."

--Shawn Johnson of the USA gymnastics team and reigning women's gymnastics champion, following a qualification round in the 2008 Beijing Olympics, during which injuries on the team put additional pressure on the remaining members. Johnson, with 62.725 points, helped the USA team finish 1-2 in the individual all-around to make the finals.

"I feel like the whole day was crazy, but we just proved to everyone that we could handle anything. I think China probably thought this was good because we showed some weakness. But this brought us together even more and made us even stronger."

"It made me a little more nervous because I knew that we had only four girls competing now. Our team was slowly dwindling down, and I definitely felt like I put a little bit more pressure on myself to do better."

--Alicia Sacramone, USA gymnast who qualified for the finals in the vault, discussing handling the pressure of competing and dealing with the favored Chinese team.