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  1. #1
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    Overcoming competition nerves: is it possible?

    Notorious chokers like Liz Manley and last season, Alissa Czisny were able to overcome years of inconsistency to evenutally skate to their true potential.

    Recently, I attended the JGP of Brisbane and it amazed me how one skater in particular was outstanding in practice, landed triples (including the axel) and different triple / triple combinations, but would bomb almost every jump in the actual competition.

    I have seen this happen numerous times in 2011 to this skater and was wondering, with the technical level on the increase, it must be so frustrating for athletes with the talent unable to put it together when it counts.

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    Talking of nerves, Paul Wylie was a great practice skater who almost always bombed (jumps) in competitions. He finally put it together at the 1992 Olympics by relaxing (nothing special, just going for a walk may be- based on the clip I saw during the Olys; if he did something more, they did not show it), and won the silver.

    Brian Orser suffered through a couple of subpar (for him) world championships before he worked with a sports psychologist and won the worlds title in 1987.

    I think Liz Manley had also worked with a sports psychologist, who advised her to skate for the enjoyment of it, and not for the medal. Liz won the silver at the 1988 Olys.

    Tamara Moskvina sent her top pair B&S snowmobiling to relax them before the 2002 Oly competition began. Unfortunately it gave Elena sunburns and they lost some practice time. However, they skated the most magical SP- Lady Caliph- a few days later.

    Tamara hypnotized her skaters M&D and B&P before their skates by looking into their eyes "trying to reach their souls"- according to a fluff piece during the 1992 Olys.

    Sasha could not get over her nerves problem in major competitions. May be she needed to relax before the competition and not think so much about winning.

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    I don't know any skater who doesn't get nervous but it totally normal and to be expected. However it is how you deal with it that is the problem and some deal with it better than others. You can practise something 100 times but get out there in the actual competition you get stiff, can't bend your knees, can't feel the ice or the ice feels weird and generally you lose a certain percentage of your normal ability. Same goes for skating tests too where skaters seem to be even more nervous than competition.

    Having said that, I could not imagine skating in a stadium full of thousands of people watching you. I think any skater who can get out there and cope with it is probably the exception rather than the norm.

    When it comes down to though, you really need to be well rehearsed and practised to give yourself the best opportunity to work through those issues and make sure that regardless of how you are feeling you can overcome those issues. And that comes from experience as well and doing lots of competitions to put yourself in that environment.

    At JGP level, those skaters are really just being their international competitive careers. I am not surprised that their performance level would drop so much for them from the practise. It is probably a whole new experience for them, not to mention travelling overseas sometimes for the first time and the mixture of nerves and excitement can get the better of them.
    When you are up to your arse in alligators it is difficult to remember you were only meant to be draining the swamp.

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    John Curry always struggled to skate clean programs despite his enormous talent and eventually went to Gus Lussi who totally reconstructed his jump technique. But it wasn't until he had completed the EST course in positive thinking that he was able to put it all together and skate his incredible programs of 1976. Prior to that he had skated a clean LP at 1973 Worlds and at Europeans in either 1974 or '75 but that's about it.

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    A US skater whom I really enjoyed did well in practices and then fell almost completely apart in competition is Rohene Ward. He was amazing in practice, but when the competition started, he just couldn't do the jumps. Nothing really helped and he has moved on to choreographing programs....most notably for Jason Brown

    I am quite happy that Alissa C. seems to have much better control of her nerves. Looking forward to seeing her this season.

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    Dorothy Hamill talked about her nerves in the video I saw. She used to get very nervous ("my heart was in my throat"), but once she got on the ice, she seemed to always deliver.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Vash01 View Post
    Sasha could not get over her nerves problem in major competitions. May be she needed to relax before the competition and not think so much about winning.
    I think Sasha's poor jumping tech and edging had more to do with her inconsistency. So many of her jumps seemed 'landed' but then the shaky blade would just collapse under her. I feel that a skater with stronger edging would have been able to save a lot of those jumps.

    Most of the time, she looked comfortable out there on the ice with this 'look at me' attitude oozing out of her. When she was very nervous, it was pretty obvious (2004 Worlds LP and 2006 Olympic LP for example), and that just didn't seem like the main problem to me for the most part.

    Someone who pops into my mind is Jeremy Abbott. He has all the technical goods but when he gets nervous his skating quality in general suffers. He just sells himself so short.

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    I think everyone gets nervous before competing, but it just depends on how the skater handles the pressure.

    Jeremy Abbott is the first skater I thought of. In the 2010 Olympics, he had great practices and phenomenal training beforehand, but in the program, he popped a triple axel to a single, and I think a triple lutz to a double. And he was like 15th after that. Then in the long, he bombed his quad toe and popped some other jumps... Anyways, he competed so well at Nationals and won gold if I remember correctly. It just amazes me how much pressure those skaters are under....

    I personally tend to get really nervous and bomb programs when it's my first time competing at that level. For example, at a competition in June in Colorado Springs, I fell five times in my -approximately- 2 minute long program. Yeah, screwed that up.... It doesn't help that altitude messed up my breathing because of asthma and wheezing, plus I wasn't used to such a large crowd, I'm used to competing in front of 100 people or so, not 300 or more, Colorado skating is just so big!

    Anyways, I think that competitions are almost more of a test of how well you can put up with the crowd pressure.

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    It's the same for every skater.
    Not to speak generally, but we used to say skaters are at 50 % in competition.
    Even in the warm-up, you see a difference.
    Carolina Kostner is another example. Her glide is very good in competition, but it's even more IMPRESSIVE at practices.
    About consistency, there are some weird cases : Maria Butyrskaya and Joannie Rochette are anothers.
    And Vanessa Gusmeroli : amazing at 2000 Euros and Worlds, inconsitent before and after.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Vash01 View Post
    Talking of nerves, Paul Wylie was a great practice skater who almost always bombed (jumps) in competitions. He finally put it together at the 1992 Olympics by relaxing (nothing special, just going for a walk may be- based on the clip I saw during the Olys; if he did something more, they did not show it), and won the silver.
    Paul went to a sports psychiatrist. Also, I read recently, he said that Evy Scotvold gave him a good hard scolding during one of his Olympic practices, and it pretty much shocked him into improving. Whatever it takes, I guess.

    ETA: Here's the article I was thinking of.
    Charter member of the "We Always Believed in Ashley" Club and the "We Believe in Ricky" Club
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    Quote Originally Posted by Wyliefan View Post
    Paul went to a sports psychiatrist. Also, I read recently, he said that Evy Scotvold gave him a good hard scolding during one of his Olympic practices, and it pretty much shocked him into improving. Whatever it takes, I guess.

    ETA: Here's the article I was thinking of.
    I remember reading that article as well. Paul was able to do really well at Olympics but I don't think he ever became a consistent skater.

    The only person I remember really overcoming inconsistency and becoming a reliable skater was John Curry. I have seen other skaters improve greatly - like Alissa - but nerves are a constant battle for some skaters.

    I think the truly consistent skaters are a rarity. That quality is what makes champions. We sometimes get spoiled and forget what a rare quality it is. For that reason I have tried to truly rejoice when skaters have great skates. It doesn't happen all the time.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Aussie Willy View Post
    You can practise something 100 times but get out there in the actual competition you get stiff, can't bend your knees, can't feel the ice or the ice feels weird and generally you lose a certain percentage of your normal ability.
    Oh my gosh- I always tell people how this happens to me. When I test or compete my knees lock up and I skate at half capacity. It's like whoa... what is going on... this isn't me...

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by essence_of_soy View Post
    Notorious chokers like Liz Manley and last season, Alissa Czisny were able to overcome years of inconsistency to evenutally skate to their true potential.

    Recently, I attended the JGP of Brisbane and it amazed me how one skater in particular was outstanding in practice, landed triples (including the axel) and different triple / triple combinations, but would bomb almost every jump in the actual competition.

    I have seen this happen numerous times in 2011 to this skater and was wondering, with the technical level on the increase, it must be so frustrating for athletes with the talent unable to put it together when it counts.

    As an individual sport where just the slightest hesitation can cause you to falter - mental strength training becomes as important as jumping or spinning. But it needs to start at a young age - developing a competition plan and working on mental strength needs to start when you first have to deal with the physical reaction of the stress - likely the first test or first competition.

    When I taught the younger skaters off ice mental strength training we focused on using the adrenalin to jump higher and spin faster when dealing with the fight/flight reaction. Same with golfers - just being slight off in your attention and focus can ruin your game - as that slight hesitation like in skating will throw off your swing.

    That is why I disagree with some of the current federations attitude toward senior b competitions and junior competitions and leaving spots open because they don't want the skaters to get pegged into a certain level.. the younger skaters need more exposure to pressure cooker situations - not less..

    I think the skater you are talking about needs to spend as much time on training his/her mind as she/he does on jumps.. continuous simulations as well as getting to the bottom of why the person is doing what they are doing - because if they are just going through the motions for others (parents/coaches) and not skating for themselves the pressure can be a major burden.. Sometimes its not the most talented skater that wins, but the skater who can handle the pressure and use it to help - not hinder..
    Thanks to PI .. I discovered I'm actually a Nontheist

    "Love is better than Anger, Hope is better than fear" Jack Layton 1950-2011

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    Quote Originally Posted by maureenfarone View Post
    A US skater whom I really enjoyed did well in practices and then fell almost completely apart in competition is Rohene Ward. He was amazing in practice, but when the competition started, he just couldn't do the jumps. Nothing really helped and he has moved on to choreographing programs....most notably for Jason Brown
    I really enjoyed him! I saw him in a show in Europe and was amazed that I hadn't heard of him before.
    So now, he's choreo? wow, great!

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