Alex Baumann first explains his swimming goals at the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles. He discusses the pressures and the challenges of swimming the 400m individual medley, and the important relationship he had with his coach. When Baumann won Olympic Gold, he recalls his relief, and the difficulty of performing his best at the Olympic Games.

Creator: Bruce Weir

© 2012, Canada's Sports Hall of Fame. All Rights Reserved.


Transcript

Well certainly I mean I think the, the first goal was to win and the second goal, because there was an Eastern Block boycott was to get the World Record as well because ultimately we wanted to prove that nobody could have beaten us even if the Eastern Block had been there. But as you know I mean if you set a world record in the heat nobody remembers that, it’s the Gold medal. So the world record was a secondary goal but certainly wasn’t that important.

I do recall the tremendous pressure though involved with particularly the first race, the 400 individual medley because I had both World Records going into the competition and I felt that I could only equal everybody’s expectation and that was pretty difficult. And then you start worrying about well what are people going to think and now that I’ve been at the Opening Ceremonies and carried the flag you know everybody knows me and if I screw up after 11 long years. So that was quite difficult. I still remember the heat and qualifying first and setting an Olympic Record but being about five seconds off my best time, and then trying to have something to eat and getting a nap, and I just couldn’t sleep. It was, it was very difficult because it felt like my heart was pounding so hard it was moving the whole bed. And you know that’s when I said oh this is ridiculous. I can’t worry about things I cannot control, I’m physically ready, I’m psychologically ready and just go in there and do it.

Four hundred is certainly a more strategic race and if you don’t swim according to your plan then you can screw it up significantly, and if you go too fast and you don’t have anything left for the last one hundred. But that’s what I think the partnership with the coach is, that day in and day out you practice the strategy and you follow that strategy. I think the other good thing that we did was we competed against every competitor in that year. So we went around the world competing against these guys so I wouldn’t have any new competition, I knew exactly how the swimmers swam, I wouldn’t get surprised if somebody went out two or three seconds ahead of me. I think that gave me the confidence to really stick to that plan. And I still remember the last five metres that it really wasn’t a sense of elation, it was a sense of relief that it was finally over.

Eleven years of training very, very hard and you know for that moment for everything to come together it’s pretty rare. And I think you know that’s really what makes the Olympics special. You have to perform on demand and you have to perform on that day and you see so many examples where athletes can’t perform on the day.


Teachers' Centre Home Page | Find Learning Resources & Lesson Plans