Olympian Mental Toughness: Stay Calm and Ski With Your Heart: Julia Mancuso

Julia_Mancuso_U.S._Ski_Team_Olympics_SochiThis is what Mental Toughness means in practice rather than in theory. It’s about talking to yourself in the best possible terms, pushing aside understandable doubts, even amid the most intense pressure.

Congratulations to U.S. skier Julia Mancuso, who won her fourth Olympic medal and in three Olympics in a row – this time a bronze in the “Super Combined” (downhill and slalom). That’s over 12 years of mental rigour and positive self-talk. She has attributed some of her admirable resilience to the tough times she went through early in life when her parents divorced and her father was imprisoned for drug trafficking.

Here’s how she explains her grace-under-pressure performance on the mean slopes of Sochi:

“I was just thinking, ‘Stay calm and ski with my heart,’ and I skied my heart out,” Mancuso said shortly after. “That was really tough. It was a really, really difficult slalom run. I knew I just had to give my best shot, and it sure didn’t feel good. I definitely had moments in my mind where I was thinking, ‘This is not going to be good enough, but keep fighting.’ I knew where to let it run on that last pitch and, surprise, looked up and got a medal.”

Mancuso had not finished better than seventh in any World Cup race this season, but her downhill run was exhilarating to watch, and her slalom was absolutely solid for a racer with so few slalom races entered this year.

“I was just kind of amazed,” Mancuso added. “It’s been a really tough season for me, and I’ve always had that real belief that I can do it. Putting out these dreams and beliefs that I can come in here and have a medal, and everyone being a little sceptical, and just knowing in my heart that I can do it, was kind of like crossing the finish line and saying, ‘See? It works. Believing in yourself really works. I got a medal today.’ “

Having the “real belief” that you can do it. That’s the trick. But it’s not a sleight-of-hand type of trick, it’s the result of several decades of disciplined training, both physically and mentally. Believing in yourself really works. Who would have thought it?

Here’s how her ultimate “boss” put it: “She has the ability to focus,” U.S. Ski Team Chief Executive Bill Marolt said. “She has the ability at the moment. She brings herself to her best possible level of preparation and puts it all out there. You think about what she did today to get this medal – she’s a gamer.”

Emotional management, mental toughness, focus and concentration