Last week, we talked to three U.S. Olympic hopefuls, all affiliated with the New York Athletic Club, about their training regimens. This week, we talk to them about the challenges of being Olympic-caliber athletes; what their individual sports demand of them; and how they motivate themselves to compete at such a high level.
Jake Herbert, wrestler, age 26, from Naperville, Ill.; 2009 World Freestyle, silver medalist
Seth Kelsey, fencer, age 29, from Colorado Springs, Colo.; 2010 World Championships, silver medalist
Jarrod Shoemaker, triathlete, age 28, from Maynard, Mass.; 2008 Olympian, USA Triathlon 2010 Elite National Champion
MLT: What’s your biggest challenge as an Olympic athlete?
Kelsey: “It’s always a struggle to balance everything. I’m in the [Air Force] Reserves and work one weekend a month. I’m really fortunate in that my unit has been supportive of my Olympic dreams and working around my travel and training schedule.”
Shoemaker: “The biggest challenge is definitely balance. Training can’t become everything in your life.”
MLT: Name one thing about your sport that most people probably don’t know.
Herbert: “Olympic wrestling is different than high school or collegiate. In the Olympics, you could win -- or lose -- a match in 40 seconds.”
Shoemaker: “People hear triathlon, they think Iron Man. In that kind of really long-distance event, your goal is to stay under your anaerobic threshold -- basically to be as comfortable as possible for the time you have to be out there. In the Olympic triathlon, the distances are a little shorter, so our goal is to go hard. It’s all about power and speed.”
Kelsey: “Fencing is like a game of tag, except with sharp weapons.”
MLT: How do you perform your best when the pressure’s on?
Kelsey: “I’ll be a little nervous before competition, and that’s a good thing. It means I care. It’s when I’m not nervous that it’s time to worry. But I think one way to keep your poise during competition is by having a routine. Before each match, our warm-up is the same. Having a routine helps focus you.”
Shoemaker: “I know where I am, and I know there are still people better than me. So what motivates me is figuring out what I have to do to make myself that much better -- to achieve that small percentage of improvement I need to win that race.”
MLT: Do you have a quote that epitomizes your philosophy on training and competition, something that helps you stay motivated?
Kelsey: “I go with my favorite [paraphrased] quote from Teddy Roosevelt: ‘Ease in the present is due to great effort in the past.’ If you put in the hard work, you can make it look really easy.”
Herbert: “The one I like best I heard from Tom and Terry Brands, Olympic wrestlers and [University of] Iowa wrestling coaches: ‘You have to hate losing more than you love winning.’”
Shoemaker: “‘There is no such word as ‘can't’!’”
Photos: Courtesy of New York Athletic Club