Opals draw on gold medal advice to be ready for Tokyo

Four Olympic gold medallists from multiple sports have joined the Australian senior women’s basketball squad in camp on the Gold Coast this week, as the Opals aim for a return to the podium at this year’s Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games and a shot at gold.

Olympic gold medallists Ken Wallace (Kayak), Sara Carrigan (Road Cycling), Brent Livermore (Hockey) and Jo Clark (Water Polo) spent time with the Opals as part of the AIS Gold Medal Ready program, an initiative to help Australian athletes be mentally prepared to deliver their best performance at the Games.

Almost 40 former Australian gold medallists and 18 gold-medal winning coaches are now part of the Gold Medal Ready Alumni spending time sharing knowledge and experiences with our Australian athletes preparing for the Games including the Aussie Spirit in Softball, Australian Women’s Rowing and now the Opals in Basketball.

The Opals have consistently been among the world’s best teams over the past three decades and had finished on the podium at five consecutive Olympic Games since 1996 before narrowly missing out in Rio 2016.

The Opals are now ranked second in the world and head coach Sandy Brondello says mental preparation will be critical as they hunt their first Olympic gold in Tokyo.

“It was fantastic to have four members of the AIS Gold Medal Ready Alumni program join our Olympic Training Camp for the full day, where they were so open in sharing the highs, the lows and learnings from their own Olympic journey.

“For most of our squad, Tokyo could be their first Olympics and while an athlete can do as much physical and tactical preparation as possible, being mentally ready is just as important.

“I’d like to commend the AIS for developing and delivering such an invaluable program and extend a special thank you to Jo (Clark), Sarah (Carrigan), Brent (Livermore) and Ken (Wallace) for their time and sharing their lived experiences, which I know have really resonated with the wider group.”

Brent Livermore was part of the Australian men’s hockey team when the Kookaburras won their first Olympic gold in Athens 2004. The Kookaburras has been on the podium at six Olympic Games prior to that historic break-through moment and Livermore had been part of the bronze medal team in 2000.

“When you go to the Games everyone’s prepared physically and tactically, everyone is putting everything on the line to perform,” Livermore said. “So I really believe the mindset of the athletes can make a big difference – who can control the emotions, not lose focus and be ready to perform when it counts.

“To be successful at an Olympic Games and get a gold medal, a lot of things need to go your way, everything from umpiring decisions to illness and injury. But you also need to handle that emotional rollercoaster individually and as a team. Working with some of the Australian teams through the Gold Medal Ready program, one thing that strikes me is the importance of understanding the team dynamics but also being aware of what makes every individual tick and perform.

“It’s amazing to be a part of the Gold Medal Ready program, to connect with current athletes who are going through similar journeys to we had. We’re all so keen to support them as much as we can so they can put their best foot forward at the Games.”

The AIS Gold Medal Ready program also comprises education and familiarisation components for athletes to learn to deal with the stress and pressure of competition.

Photo credit: Basketball Australia

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