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Winter Olympic training "message"

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  • Winter Olympic training "message"

    When you listen to the stories of the various winter Olympic athletes being interviewed, have any of you been struck by what seems to be the total dedication and intensity of their training?

    Their extreme physical fitness, the total immersion quality of the past four years of focussed intensity seems more intense than what I sense many of our "Team-bound" riders subject themselves to.

    Not to say our "kids" don`t "want it", but I just don`t have the impression it`s quite the same willingness to work their guts out.

    Convince me that I`m wrong, because I hope I am---

  • #2
    Is that what we want in all cases? I want my kids to have discipline and drive, yes - but I'd also like them to be happy and prepared for all the paths they will have to walk in life. I think it's rare the single-mindedness you are touting delivers that. I also want them to love to ride and love their horses - not view them as tools to their own success. If they can achieve all of the above - GREAT. If I have to choose, I choose good person vs. good athlete.


    • Original Poster

      You don`t think the skiing/skating athletes are "good people"?


      • #4


        Not going to convince you that you are wrong because you are RIGHT!

        It just seems that "kids" and many parents of those kids want to be involved in too much other than just having that intense focus on being REALLY GOOD at one thing.


        • #5
          One of the things I noticed is that along with the worked-their-guts-out stories, is that quite a few of the olympians had taken long breaks.


          • #6
            Didn't say that

            My opinion is worth the same 2 cents yours is. I don't want to get into the details, but I was an olympic level athlete many moons ago - not in riding. I made the team but didn't compete due to injury. The injury ended my career and I had NOTHING else. I had not been to school very much. I had moved all over to follow the best programs - so no real roots. I also had no image of success for myself other than through this sport. Maybe all the current athletes (and cast offs we don't get to see) are better managed by their families and coaches and better at managing themselves. For me, the all-consuming life in the sport was very difficult to adjust away from when it was time.

            Also, my sport didn't require a generous partner that relies completely on us for their well-being. If it had, I can't guarantee that we always would have had the horse's best interests in mind. Our big goals may have caused us to push when we shouldn't have.


            • #7
              Originally posted by Fence2Fence View Post
              One of the things I noticed is that along with the worked-their-guts-out stories, is that quite a few of the olympians had taken long breaks.
              in alpine skiing at least thats usually because their injuries require "long breaks" due to the severity of the injuries...

              where alse do you get to crash into the ground with little or no protection going 100km/h+?


              • #8
                I am not observing any Team Hopefuls on a daily basis, so I cannot comment on specific programs.

                That said, the NBC interviews by definition focus on the athlete's life in one dimension. So we cannot see the totality of an athlete's daily life.

                My OH is an Olympian (Rowing, Sydney 2000) who has told me about her life in training. The scullers trained six hours a day, not all in the boat. They did weights (heavy lifting and circuits) in addition to rowing workouts. At times they also did running and swimming.

                Then they rested and ate. Intensively! The resting and eating were very important parts of the training. And then they had other parts of their lives. My OH walked the dog and hung out at the coffeeshop at the local bookstore. But when she was interviewed by NBC they did not ask her about any of that.

                She says that she has noticed the intensity that riding athletes put into the care and management of the horses, an aspect that other athletes just do not have to deal with. Not only do we have to keep ourselves fit, but we have the horses' fitness to work on, and their day-to-day care, and their sports medicine needs. All of this takes money, much more money than a rower needs. So many of them have to work by taking in horses in training, or teaching, ar chasing sponsors.

                So... I think this is a little case of comparing apples to oranges.
                Taco Blog
                *T3DE 2010 Pact*


                • #9
                  Well, honestly, I was impressed by our athletes. Apolo Ohno, Lindsey Vonn, etc all seemed very dedicated to their discipline and worked hard. I think that's reflected in our medal count. I was less impressed by the Olympics in general. Different thread though.
                  Whoa-sorry, I thought Denny was talking about our Olympic athletes, not our riders. I'll never answer a post before my second cup of coffee again.
                  Last edited by riderboy; Feb. 18, 2010, 06:59 PM. Reason: add content


                  • Original Poster

                    The really great riders that I`ve known over the past 50 years or so had, I would say, the same kind of total dedication to being, as they say in that Army slogan, "all you can be" that seems to come across in the interviews we`ve all been listening to this past week from Vancouver.

                    It`s pretty difficult to be really great, and there are costs, no doubt. But I don`t accept that the great riders, by and large, abused horses to get there. Usually they had just the opposite relationships with their horses.


                    • #11
                      Also, my sport didn't require a generous partner that relies completely on us for their well-being. If it had, I can't guarantee that we always would have had the horse's best interests in mind. Our big goals may have caused us to push when we shouldn't have.[/QUOTE]

                      I think the above is a factor. If you get to the Olympic level and your horse gets injured or you realize your horse doesn't have the talent to be an Olympic horse then you have to either get a new partner or own one that is ready to step into its place. Otherwise you've got the long climb back to the top. Lyndsey Vonn can ski through intense pain but we wouldn't (or shouldn't) do that to the horse. You could make a correlation between pairs figure skating and riding in that they are both partner dependent and each member of that partnership has to be equally talented and committed. They both have to perform their best on the big day.

                      I don't think the parents of our up and coming riders are any less supportive of their kids than parents in any other Olympic sport. It costs a tremendous amount of money to compete at the Olympic level in any sport.
                      Five Star Tack


                      • #12
                        There's some interesting videos on the NBC website showing some of the workout routines of skiiers and skaters..


                        What I think is a 'lesson' here isn't so much the drive and dedication, but how many riders, even top riders, also spend hours in the gym every day working on strength and fitness, or doing other sports to complement their regular training schedule?

                        It seems all these top athletes do a lot of stuff outside their specific sport training to make themselves better... how many riders do that?

                        (or does this not apply to riding the same way it does in other sports? if it *does* apply, what's the kind of work that would improve our riding?)
                        "smile a lot can let us ride happy,it is good thing"

                        My CANTER blog.


                        • #13
                          So, take a look at some of the greatest riders and find the common thread. . .

                          What do we lack now?
                          RIP Kelly 1977-2007 "Wither thou goest, so shall I"

                          "To tilt when you should withdraw is Knightly too."


                          • #14
                            I was watching an interview with Apolo Ohno and he said something along the lines of:

                            "Before you go to sleep each night, ask yourself this question: ‘Did you do everything you could today to be at your very best?’"

                            Even if a rider had enough drive to want to ask themselves this question every night and had the time to be able to fit in the "four 2 hour work outs" everyday, mounted or otherwise, they still need the money and horse to back it up.

                            Ditto what redlight said.
                            Wow. We're just blowing through nap time, aren't we?


                            • #15
                              I think there is great risk in having that narrow focus as piggiponiis discusses. There have been psychological studies on many Olympic athletes who competed at young ages and they have found that the athletes fail to grow out of their sport after they retire. They spent so many years with a narrow focus that in the end they fail at other aspects of their lives.

                              In other words the athletes become disposable after they accomplish their task, e.g. win a medal. Given the relative obscurity of many of these sports they can't simply transition to coaching or training (not enough public participants) so they become lost.

                              An example, one of my vets was an Olympic freestyle skier. His mom is one of the Olympic judges and he even judged at Salt Lake. Yet in the end he could not make a life of his discipline. He had to grow beyond his sport. That is not easy. Ask any older football or baseball player.

                              I think redlight also hits a big issue. The horse. WE judge the athlete more by the HORSE than the rider. Nowadays that requires money up front. In the past a selector could judge the rider and a horse would be provided from the donated pool. Thus you could simply focus on the athlete.

                              Now, riders have to be as much fund raisers/business managers and athletes.


                              • #16
                                This insightful post is a loaded gun. I think at its heart is the question of the kind of environment needed to promote intense, highly focused, and totally immersed riders/horsemen.

                                The first question that comes to my mind is can one have these qualities and also be teathered to a trainer?

                                Is an environment that promotes dependency going to promote the independent bold thinker who has the necessary skill to get to the moment and through the moment?

                                Can riders be trainer-dependent and also be adept at taking risks? If you equate the word risk to to the word problem the question becomes: Can a trainer-dependent rider be an independent problem solver?

                                There's some food for thought.

                                Originally posted by denny View Post
                                When you listen to the stories of the various winter Olympic athletes being interviewed, have any of you been struck by what seems to be the total dedication and intensity of their training?

                                Their extreme physical fitness, the total immersion quality of the past four years of focussed intensity seems more intense than what I sense many of our "Team-bound" riders subject themselves to.

                                Not to say our "kids" don`t "want it", but I just don`t have the impression it`s quite the same willingness to work their guts out.

                                Convince me that I`m wrong, because I hope I am---


                                • Original Poster

                                  Here`s what some of the great riders I`ve personally known have done:

                                  Worked extensively with Grand Prix dressage riders, to the point they could easily be mistaken for pure dressage riders---See Ingrid Klimke

                                  Raced over fenced, even including the Md Hunt Cup---See Kevin Freeman, Bruce Davidson, Mike Plumb, Frank Chapot, Kathy Kusner

                                  Ridden to very high levels of international show jumping----see Mark Todd, Bernie Traurig,

                                  Have they ridden in endurance/distance rides, see Lana Wright, first woman Olympic 3-day rider

                                  These are all possible avenues of growth for our aspiring young 3-day athletes. Are any of them doing these things?

                                  Also, how tough and fit are our riders? Do they run, lift weights, do chin ups?

                                  Can they explain, in minute detail, the training scale? Can they walk show jumping courses the way the pure jumper riders can. Are they all around riders and horsemen?

                                  It`s these "extra miles", so often, that have turnedthe great ones into legends.

                                  Not one of these avenues has a "road closed" sign to someone who truly wants to go there.


                                  • #18
                                    Definitely some Olympic sports have more promising financial futures for the athletes than eventing does. And a few countries provide lifetime income to gold medal winners. So some of those athletes are working hard hoping for a medal and they also get a gravy train afterwards. In eventing most people need outside jobs as well as sponsorship to support themselves, and to get a well paying job most of them have to go to school. It is certainly a lot harder find outside funding for riders than it is for a sport thats more mainstream. People find it hard to relate to riders, especially in North America.

                                    Also, I think due to the horse, it may seem like riders spend less time training. We have to do so much cross training to keep ourselves fit, because we cant spend 8 hours a day on our horses (unless we have several) like other athletes spend on their skiis, skates or bikes. We have to find less exciting ways to train ourselves.


                                    • #19
                                      If you look at a guy like Shaun White though, snowboarding is not just his focus. He crosstrains and competes in skateboarding too, which is similar but not the same. If the summer Olympics had skateboarding we would see him there too. He's one of those lucky few that have found his passion, what he truly loves and enjoys, and happens to be very naturally talented and a lot insane (as these really high level athletes have to be!).
                                      I'm curious about what a lot of these elite athletes do after they win (or don't) their medals. Do they continue as coaches? Many of them have been so focused and put their all into this that they haven't gone to college or prepared for another field. Riders are much more likely to become professionals and have others pay to train/ride/compete their horses, do clinics, become instructors etc. I know many of them do become professionals, or already are, but the equestrian sports are different in that many riders can continue well into their 40's and 50's at a high level. NOT the case with these sports in the winter olympics where you're over the hill at 30 and the toll it's taken on your body causes you to have extreme problems very young.
                                      Grab mane and kick on!


                                      • #20
                                        I believe the problem faced by elite riders today...

                                        In years past this was truly an ammy sport. Even the top riders had only one, two, or three horses. Much time was taken to attend to every detail of the training and management of those horses. There was less competing and more time to train on those areas that needed attention.

                                        The business model has changed so much that riders now have to train, teach, travel for clinics, compete more often, ride babies, etc etc etc. I believe there is not enough time in the day to do all of this to the degree that it was done in years past.

                                        I do not think riders are any less hungry today then they were back when, but I do think the demands put on them to run businesses simply do not allow them to cover every little aspect that is required for success at top level sport as it is today.

                                        Of course there are the exceptions...but this requires many staff and much expense. Most riders are not in the position to provide either.

                                        The british high performance riders get financial help from lottery funding and I know many who would not be able to carry on without this support.

                                        I do believe that if the US riders were to receive some funding in this manner and were able to devote more time to a lesser amount of horses that results would improve. As it is now, most have to chase every dollar they can in order to keep their businesses going and pay the mortgage. All that takes valuable time away from training.