by Peter Bol, Olympian and Curtin University Graduate
AUSTRALIA - And just like that, the Games are over.
Even with full focus, it's hard to process the sheer magnitude of everything at once - the results, the emotions, the outstanding support, the impact, the attention we've managed to capture, and the people we've inspired.
I say "we", because none of this would have been possible without my support team. So I'll let my manager's wise words summarise my own emotions as well:
"If it's possible to be very proud, very happy and very disappointed all at the same time, then that's me right now" - James Templeton.
Proud and happy, because the great shape I've been in - both physically and mentally - is right there in the results. No gold, no medal, but I'm so proud of the way I put everything together.
On reflection, the year's delay in all of us getting to Tokyo was actually exactly what I needed. But before I get into the performance, let's all put our hands together for Tokyo and the people of Japan for hosting these Games during a pandemic that has blighted the world for almost 18 months now. The city and the country took a risk to finally crystallise the dreams and hopes of us Olympic athletes, and we're truly grateful.
I also want to try to soak up exactly how much all the encouragement and messages of support I've received from home mean to me, across all the different forms of communication and social media.
The Tokyo dream is over now, but the unreal support is already making me hungry for what is yet to come. As I look into the future, knowing I have a whole country behind me, it's such powerful fuel for the next steps in my development. I honestly can't wait!
Sport, though, is of course always performance-focused, so while we can be proud of how far we've come - and 4th in the whole world really is something special - we also understand that there's still work to be done. We made a few tactical errors that could have made a little difference, so we're already deep into the analysis and looking down the track at what's next.
I've been asked a lot for an insight into the emotional side of things, especially the 'before, during and after' of those 3 races, but the reality may be less of a whirlwind than you're expecting. In simple terms, I was calm, focused, and having fun with it at the same time. You'd think there would be a lot of commotion and talk between myself, my coach Justin and manager James, but they were just as cool and confident too.
After all, when you know you've done what you needed to do to prepare as best you can, it's just a matter of execution. In fact, the only key bit of advice from Justin on the big night was this:
"Be aggressive. Don't be afraid. You belong here. And run through the line" - Justin Rinaldi.
That really resonated for me, because it's not as if we were doing something unfamiliar. And we've been preparing for this moment for years. It may be the Olympic Games, but it's still the same 800 metres.
Running several races domestically and two in Europe before the Games was great preparation. But although I broke two national records in as many days, and even eased off a little on the line in the process, the record was never the goal for Tokyo. We had all season to chase times, so the pure mantra for the Games was: 'Whatever it takes to get the job done'.
Now, just a few days later, and hearing that word "inspired" so much, I realise how inspired I am by those who are flourishing despite the lack of opportunities they might have. Tokyo was really good for putting it all into perspective - an unusual Games, and totally different to previous Olympics because of Covid-19.
It really was a uniquely positive experience, with the world's best athletes coming together to perform at their best in spite of the interruptions we've all tackled due to the pandemic. We still saw so many PBs, national records, even incredible world records on the track - and at the end of the day, that's what high performance is all about.
It’s such a privilege to be part of the Australian Olympic team, with everyone so supportive and invested in each other's achievements whilst focusing on their own. Of course it's about the chase for Gold, but I also really felt the culture of togetherness with the athletes and staff in the Village, which made these Games even a little more enjoyable, despite all the restrictions.
Another question I'm getting constantly at the moment is what it means to see and hear all of the amazing support from back home in Australia. The answer is hard to put into words, but what I've come to fully grasp is that between the natural talent I was blessed with, and the ability and willingness to work hard, it's impossible without not only the opportunity, but also the support that allows me to do what I love and chase the highest imaginable dreams. In Australia, opportunities really are endless - so long as you learn to recognize and grab them.
As for the Aussie support, let me tell you: It's there if you learn to ask for it and, in my case, accept it. At the end of the day, it's that support gives me the most joy of all - and the motivation to continue to share this journey with my country.
Thankyou, thankyou, thankyou.
Until next time,