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Olympic athletes rock NMBS conference

Olympic and world championship medal winners Roger Black and Steve Backley took the 2012 NMBS all-industry conference to new heights with their presentation on Saturday afternoon.

The two took it in turns to talk delegates through the highs and lows of their competing experience and shared videos of their triumphs.

Backley talked about feeling intimidated by rivals when he first competed internationally, yet when he threw a new British and Commonwealth record to win the competition, he realised from the reactions of his rivals that the others weren’t gods or gladiators, but human. “That made it OK for me to think about becoming the best in the world. It made it OK to dream.”

His message was that it’s amazing how much your attitude and mental state can affect performance, particularly in sports. Even the greatest sportspeople can lose it if their mind isn’t in the right place.

“If you want to compete like you’re the best in the world, train and compete like you’re second best. Don’t get complacent.”

Black’s key message was how one shouldn’t be reactive: “don’t react to people around you. Concentrate on your performance and be proactive”, he said.

He showed the video of the 1991 World Athletics Championships, when he and fellow team-mate Kris Akabusi swapped places to storm to the gold medal place.

“We realised that we were planning to come second. We had a winning formula with the team, but that evening we had the courage to change it. We had four world class athletes and that small change allowed us to step away from being excellent and become outstanding.”

He also talked about how close he came to giving up when he was ill with glandular fever: “but I had a dream and I knew I’d been given a ticket to that and a talent. As long as I had a shot I wasn’t going to give it up. You’re a long time retired in this sport. If there was a glimmer of hope I wanted to still be there.”

About Fiona Russell-Horne

Group Managing Editor across the BMJ portfolio.

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