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Teaching Story: The Secret to Outracing Your Competition

Several swimmers racing at a swim meet

In 1988, at the age of 17, Eric Namesnik achieved his lifelong swimming dream and qualified for the U.S. Olympic Team Trials - Swimming in the 400-meter IM in preparation for the Seoul Olympics.

Erik had told me that before this, he had never really thought about a goal to medal at the Games. He just wanted to qualify for Trials. That had always been his “big enough why.” So going into this huge meet, Erik put absolutely no pressure on himself, having already reached his dream!

Leading up to prelims, he was totally oblivious to the other seven swimmers in his heat as well as who was in any of the other heats. Feeling relaxed and confident, he ended up swimming the race of his life and the second fastest time of the morning, qualifying him as the second seed going into finals!    

Of course, between prelims and finals, swimmers always have a lot of time to think — and Namesnik, like many other athletes, made “good” use of this time! First he thought, “All I have to do is swim the same time and at 17 years old, I'm going to be on the Olympic Team!”

Then, when his excitement of that possibility started to fuel his nervousness, he started thinking about the other seven swimmers who had qualified for finals. One of these was a previous bronze medal winner. Several others were NCAA finalists in that event and all seven were older and bigger than he was.

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