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Thread: Winning Ways

  1. #16
    Like subtlety in ice dancing Serious Business's Avatar
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    It is definitely something mental going on with Oda. He is known for landing the most ridiculous combos in practice, like 4/3/3/3s, and yet he only occasionally lands a successful quad in competition. We also have one huge but also very understandable example of something mental affecting Oda's physical abilities: his gigantic meltdown at Worlds last year was directly precipitated by the news that his then girlfriend (now wife) got pregnant (he was stressed about how to break the news to his parents, I think? I know he was incredibly stressed by the news somehow), which led to his worst performance in competition in years... possibly ever. Again, entirely understandable. It just maybe an example of how Oda is particularly susceptible to less than ideal mental conditions.

    I have less insight into how Mirai's mindset affects her physical ability. I still remember vividly how she led after the SP at the nationals before the recent one, then skated a seemingly perfect FS, only to wind up 2nd from downgrades. Looking at her past results, though, it shows a pretty stark record of Mirai leading after the short only to finish lower in the FS, sometimes much, much lower. Is it because she attempts jumps in the FS more likely for her to get downgrades on? Or is the stress of maintaining a lead enough to affect her technique to make her more susceptible to under rotation? I do get the impression, rather strongly, that Mirai is rather scattered brain and can get distracted. That's definitely not a plus.

    I was going to say that the idea that mentally fragile skaters excel in the SP but botch it in the FS is a sound one and must apply to Sasha Cohen, 'cause we all remember how she led at the Turin Olympics only to screw the pooch in the long. And it's often said that Sasha is a short program skater. But that is actually not so looking at her detailed record, where she has just as many examples of moving ahead of her SP placement as she does of moving behind it, and many more examples where she maintains the placement. However, there is no doubt that she was mentally fragile. And I remember a lot more perfect SPs from her than I do any perfect FS.

    I can't find a detailed record of Michelle Kwan's SP vs. FS placement. Was she the opposite, though? I remember quite a few famous cases where Kwan is behind in the SP, only to pull it together for a perfect FS while rivals crumble. And Kwan is one of the mentally toughest athletes the sport has ever seen.

    The FS is definitely a mental endurance test (as well as a physical one). Are there any other skating head cases who excel at the SP but crumble in the long?

  2. #17
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    Yes Oda was stressed out and in tears over how to break the pregnancy news to his mother, who didn't even know of his girlfriend. His Olympic skate was hampered by the skate lace incident, really his fault for inattention, but the meltdown came at Worlds the next month, when he popped all three jumps in the SP and didn't even qualify for the LP. I really wanted him to do well with his adorable Charlie Chaplin program.

    But Oda doesn't really have awful skates or meltdowns this season. He just manages to always let go of the Gold even with an excellent performance by doing too much and violating COP rules, or with bad luck like the 2A fall in GPF. (Well, actually he already lost it by falling on the 4t after Patrick laid down his clean LP.) So he's not a straight headcase in the sense of not being able to skate his LP well. Winning Silver is quite an accomplishment but doing it his way four times straight in the same season implies more than extrinsic factors or the mental state at a particular time. It is more deep seated and subtle. Let's see if he will conquer this or slip down with the frustration or resignation.
    Last edited by SkateFiguring; 03-03-2011 at 04:29 PM.

  3. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by Serious Business View Post

    I have less insight into how Mirai's mindset affects her physical ability. I still remember vividly how she led after the SP at the nationals before the recent one, then skated a seemingly perfect FS, only to wind up 2nd from downgrades. Looking at her past results, though, it shows a pretty stark record of Mirai leading after the short only to finish lower in the FS, sometimes much, much lower. Is it because she attempts jumps in the FS more likely for her to get downgrades on? Or is the stress of maintaining a lead enough to affect her technique to make her more susceptible to under rotation? I do get the impression, rather strongly, that Mirai is rather scattered brain and can get distracted. That's definitely not a plus.
    Perhaps Mirai, Oda (and Andrew Poje) need to hang out with Katarina Witt

  4. #19
    she takes the audience on her journey of emotions Layfan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Serious Business View Post
    I was going to say that the idea that mentally fragile skaters excel in the SP but botch it in the FS is a sound one and must apply to Sasha Cohen, 'cause we all remember how she led at the Turin Olympics only to screw the pooch in the long. And it's often said that Sasha is a short program skater. But that is actually not so looking at her detailed record, where she has just as many examples of moving ahead of her SP placement as she does of moving behind it, and many more examples where she maintains the placement. However, there is no doubt that she was mentally fragile. And I remember a lot more perfect SPs from her than I do any perfect FS.

    I can't find a detailed record of Michelle Kwan's SP vs. FS placement. Was she the opposite, though? I remember quite a few famous cases where Kwan is behind in the SP, only to pull it together for a perfect FS while rivals crumble. And Kwan is one of the mentally toughest athletes the sport has ever seen.

    The FS is definitely a mental endurance test (as well as a physical one). Are there any other skating head cases who excel at the SP but crumble in the long?
    Honestly, I think the whole Sasha vs. Michelle thing comes down in good part to Michelle having more reliable technique. Sasha had quite a few excellent long programs. If she wasn't Sasha, the comment would be wow, what a great skate, she only had that bobble or whatever, on that jump but she had the mental toughness to save it. But people (and she herself) expected to her to win gold and if it was only silver or bronze she had "failed."
    I think her Olympic LP attests to her mental toughness. Another skater might have just fallen apart and she got stronger and stronger as the program progressed. I think it comes out down to the fact that her technique just wasn't as reliable as Michelle's so there were bound to be bobbles on a few of her jumps or awkward landings almost every time. Too bad. The rest of her skating was mesmerizing.

    It's astonishing how many perfect programs Michelle gave us over the years and the more time passes the more that accomplishment seems amazing. It's frustrating to me sometimes that casual fans don't always think of her that way. I still hear comments like, "I loved Michelle Kwan but she 'fell apart' at the key moments." Those darned Olympics!!! And she did very well at both but people only remember that she "lost."

    I agree, it's hard to think of a more mentally tough skater than Michelle but I still think it comes down to practice strategies and technique - it gave her so much confidence to know she could rely on her well-practiced technique.

  5. #20
    Like subtlety in ice dancing Serious Business's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by blue dog View Post
    Perhaps Mirai, Oda (and Andrew Poje) need to hang out with Katarina Witt
    If only mental toughness could be transmitted that way! Skaters would be lining up to hang out with Katarina, and not just because she's still hot.

    Quote Originally Posted by Layfan View Post
    I agree, it's hard to think of a more mentally tough skater than Michelle but I still think it comes down to practice strategies and technique - it gave her so much confidence to know she could rely on her well-practiced technique.
    You have a very good point about sound technique. It will get a skater through all kinds of rough patches. Although even then, there are still tons of skaters with sound technique who never laid down as many perfect long programs as Michelle did (her ability to deliver those were mind blowing).

    Luckily for skaters competing under the COP, perfection is no longer a requirement to do well. Time was, doing a program cleanly was hugely important. That is absolutely no longer the case. As Sasha showed at the FS in Turin (you're right about her toughness there). She may have screwed up at first, but she didn't give up and still racked up enough points for silver. And of course, nowadays people love to bellyache about how many skaters win despite falling. We may have a lot less perfect performances at the top now, but I'm fine with that if it gives an incentive for skaters to keep performing after mistakes instead of giving up.

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    Reason for meltdown - Takahashi's free skate, 09 GPF

    SkateFiguring, I am intrigued that you think Daisuke 'has the winner's attitude' - I am still in each competition fearful that he'd have yet another implosion! (I am sure his 4 falls in free skate at 04 TEB was the record in GPS, until surpassed by Denis Ten's 5 this season at SA!) He's been one of the most endearing headcases for me for so long. Anyway, he had a major meltdown only 14 months or so ago at 09GPF. If you're interested in what caused it, here is a summary of his own reasoning...
    • Fatigued after coming second in Skate Canada, and also relieved that he secured a spot at GPF, he could not put 100% into practice and training running up to the GPF;
    • Knowing that he wasn't prepared, he had no choice but just to go for it for the short - he said it was his luck he got a very good score and placed first after the short;
    • He exhausted what little was left in him in the short, and he knew about it and thus was very nervous for free skate (he used the following analogous to describe the feeling - as if trying to find an excuse for not having done homework for the next day);
    • During the practice and warm-up, lacking in confidence, he was trying his best to look good and strong - he said he was all the while ashamed of and hating himself for being like that;
    • He was actually scared of going on ice to skate;
    • Failing the quad, his mind went blank. Lost concentration, he wasn't even sure what he was doing (only one of three spins was counted, as he repeated CCoSp three times);
    • He analyses being too nervous caused loss of concentration, and only knowing that he had practised enough and was thus prepared could allow him to believe he could do it whatever happens.


    He said he was least nervous at the Olympics last season, as he knew he practised as much as he could. He thought to himself, whatever happened, it could not be worse than the GPF - he reckons that his meltdown at GPF somehow helped him to be less nervous for the biggest event of the season.

    Quote Originally Posted by SkateFiguring View Post
    Yes Oda was stressed out and in tears over how to break the pregnancy news to his mother, who didn't even know of his girlfriend.
    I am not sure this is entirely true - I know this is what Nobu's former coach Morozov told the press, but I always take his comments with a pinch of salt. (His story of breaking up with Daisuke and taking on Nobu never really made any sense - contradicting not only Dai and Nobu's stories, but his own time to time!)

    It is however most likely that Nobu was stressed by his personal circumstances, which perhaps prevented him from concentrating 100% on training running up to the Worlds, - I am sure he was going to do that after disappointment at the Olys. Taking a hint from Dai's story of meltdown at GFP, I wonder if it was not the stress itself, but knowing he could not practised fully due to the stress that caused his epic meltdown in the short.
    Last edited by mot; 03-03-2011 at 07:18 PM.

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    Yuzuru Hanyu and his fellow Japanese skaters

    Yuzuru is seen as a unique young skater by many figure skating fans in Japan. Before him, not many Japanese men expressed so openly their love of being in competition and sheer desire to win. Japanese 'boys' are often described by those who know them well (e.g., journalists) sweet, kind, sensitive, moody, sometimes even naive. Makoto Okazaki, former skater himself and now an international technical specialist, once described the difference between Japanese ladies and men at competitions - there is often so much tension between the girls at competitions that it could even be scary sometimes, but, despite their rivalry, boys are friendly and sometimes found chatting to each other in the locker room just before the competition begins. There is, according to Makoto, an atmosphere that they are in it together and might as well support each other.

    In such an atmosphere, not many Japanese men have expressed their rivalry in public. They always name each other as inspiration, and say things like 'I'd love to be like him' rather than 'I'd like to beat him'. Competitions are always described as where they do their best, not where they beat everyone and be on the top of podium.

    Then there came Yuzuru - I read in his interview a year ago, he said he could not say he enjoyed the competition unless he won. He could NOT believe others said there was no regret (if they did their best) even if they didn't win - no way one could be free from regret if they lost. This year, he said he was so disappointed in himself when he came below Artur Gachinski at COR, whom he had beaten at the WJC last season. Boy, he is competitive alright! Not that he is big headed though - he knows he needs to learn more and get better and he loves it. He just thrives in competitions. He said, on his way up, he could see many 'walls' that he has to climb over and go beyond. He names Daisuke and Patrick as two of the last walls to get over in his journey. I cannot remember any other Japanese men describing their competitors in such a way. On Nobu's accent in 2005/06 to threaten his position as Japan's top man, Daisuke thanked him for giving him a kick in a butt and said he would not have been as successful without Nobu as his arch rival. Dai's coach once described her student as 'too sweet to compete and that was frustrating thing about him.' Yuzuru is a different bleed indeed.

    Quote Originally Posted by SkateFiguring View Post
    I don't know if he has watched live performances by Plush, Johnny and Todd
    Not with Todd, as I know of, but Yuzuru appeared in a few shows during the summer with Plushy and Johnny. Both of them seem to be fond of him. Johnny in his tweets called Yuzuru his favourite and cheered for him for the FCC, as well as, for some reasons, ended up designing the costume for him. Yuzuru said Plushy gave him a few tips / lessons in how to do the quad during the show's practice. Plushy called him in one of the interviews a major contender for the gold at Sochi - though I suspect it could a bit of lip service. Well, who knows, I remember Plushy naming Daisuke, still an endearing headcase, as one of his main contenders at Torino 2006, and took all Japanese figure skating fans by utter surprise. (And Dai imploded in the free not too much to our surprise...)
    Last edited by mot; 03-03-2011 at 07:33 PM.

  8. #23
    Trixie Schuba's biggest fan! blue dog's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Serious Business View Post

    Luckily for skaters competing under the COP, perfection is no longer a requirement to do well. Time was, doing a program cleanly was hugely important. That is absolutely no longer the case. As Sasha showed at the FS in Turin (you're right about her toughness there). She may have screwed up at first, but she didn't give up and still racked up enough points for silver. And of course, nowadays people love to bellyache about how many skaters win despite falling. We may have a lot less perfect performances at the top now, but I'm fine with that if it gives an incentive for skaters to keep performing after mistakes instead of giving up.
    I think this was why, during 6.0, a lot of skaters gave up after making early mistakes, except for those who were trying moves that no one has attempted before. Because the perfect program was often the benchmark, skaters who made early mistakes would just call it a day. I think that's what gave Sasha a lot of difficulty in her career--until that skate in the Olympics.

    Of course, some skaters, when they make that early mistake, relax so much that they have the skate of their lives AFTER the mistake (Nancy Kerrigan doubling the flip in Lillehammer, then skating perfect afterwards).

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    mot thanks for the detailed account on Daisuke's 09GPF. I guess you answered my question whether his winning ways came naturally to him or if he had to cultivate it through experiences.

    Over a year ago before the Olympics, on the skating thread of another forum, I commented that Takahashi was a great skater, a medal contender but he tended to be inconsistent. Few Americans even knew him then and they were impressed by the Little Japanese Guy. He exulted an air of confidence, showed the determination to do the 4F, flirted with the judges and audiences alike, just being a rock star on ice and a great showman in general. So he really made a name for himself with his Olympic Bronze and the World Championship gold with his memorable programs. I'm sure his popularity soared in Japan, being the first Japanese Men's World Champion must have made him a national hero. And he has exhibited heroic/Samurai qualities to inspire his fans while endearing himself to them.

    Hardly anyone can win every competition. But a winner learns from every experience and turns every life event to his advantage. That was exactly what Daisuke did with his 09GPF. Gaining insight from a terrible loss, he turned his career around. That is what I mean by a winner's attitude. A loser tends to learn negatively, often wrong lessons from his experiences, reinforcing the wrong mindsets and finding it more and more difficult to break out from bad mental habits and to break through in life, career, etc. Thanks again for the story, mot. I hope you will relax watching Daisuke. I don't think he is liable to repeat mistakes because he learns from them.

    I stongly believe a moment of insight is worth more than a life time of experiences. An insight gained can be used for the rest of one's life. Winners don't often repeat same mistakes because they gain insights from them. I've urged some people to go make new mistakes instead of the same ones all their lives. There are so many new fun mistakes to be made so why such loyalty to old ones.

    My instincts about my favorites are getting good. E.g. I was really nervous for Patrick at the Olympics, knowing he was not really prepared. I realized I was totally relaxed at his GPF performances when they were over. The Nationals was simply exciting all the way.

    Well, Oda. I love the guy but at the Olympics Joannie showed how a winner performed under the most difficult circumstances. Has Nobu ever explained what happened with him at last Worlds? He seems to have put that firmly behind him and is having a great season, getting on the podium in every competition he participates in.

    I rolled my eye at Morozov's interview, especially at his basically calling the Japanese men ugly. What were the reactions to his comments in Japan? Maybe it didn't get any press because it was done in Russia?

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    mot, very interesting info re. Yuzuru. I knew he had met Johnny who also designed his costume. I hope he changes his costume designer next season! I also knew Johnny is very fond of him but with Johnny it's always about himself so Yuzuru's admiration must really appeal to his ego and the affection will be returned.

    However, the most interesting part was an answer to a question I wanted to ask you. I've read a Chinese fan's experience with Nobu and Koz. Koz was very uncomfortable and apologetic when Nobu was asked to take a picture of him and the fan because it was disrespectful to Oda the "elder". Nobu was described as more Westernized and didn't mind it at all. Anyway, I have been wondering if such respect for someone even just a year or two older would discourge young competitors to win over their seniors, thus delaying their own rise in the ranks. Then I thought of Yuzuru the yougster, especially the fact that he doesn't name the world's elite compatriots as his role models. So it seems my suspected effect does happen and that Yuzuru is indeed a marverik.

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    Quote Originally Posted by ivy View Post
    It's an interesting question - what keep competitors going, what drives them on.

    When I watch Joubert, personally I want him to retire. It's been years since I've enjoyed his skating, though at one time he was one of my favorites. I feel like he's regressing technically and at best holding steady in artistry. I just wish I felt like he had more of a new story to tell, rather then just filling out his resume.
    Joubert intrigues me, and I also wonder what keeps him going. On the record, he is a phenomenal competitor; his track records in the Europeans and the Worlds are nothing but impressive (Ok, the Olympics are not his thing, but...) He always seems to be able to pull himself together somehow for those occasions. But something about him that makes me think there is a kind of fragility in him, though I cannot really point my finger at what it is.

    There are skaters whose skate I just adore and love, and Joubert does not fall in this category. But there are also skaters I cannot help being intrigued and root for - namely those skaters whose emotion is almost see through in their performances (and often headcases!); and Joubert is definitely one of them (though he is not a typical headcase). I was actually surprised by myself favouring Joubert's performance in the short at Torino World last year, over my all time favourite Daisuke's... There is something so touching and exuberant about his performance that night.

    I wonder if he likes just to skate and find a joy in improving (so he's trying something different this season?), or perhaps he loves doing the quad too much, which he describes as an amazing experience, like flying in the sky. Maybe he likes to 'fight' and compete. I am sure he thrives in drawing reactions from passionate fans and spectators (but he can do that in shows too.) There is a possibility that he's doing it for his country - until someone like Florent can definitely fly the flag for men's skating in France? His answers in the interviews often seem too generic to me - maybe he's shy? I don't feel the same passion in his interview as the one I feel in (some of) his performances. Maybe that's where I smell a kind of fragility?

    Whatever the reason, I do hope he finishes this rather difficult season for him with a high note, and continues his success till Nice Worlds at least.

  12. #27
    Like subtlety in ice dancing Serious Business's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mot View Post
    Yuzuru is seen as a unique young skater by many figure skating fans in Japan. Before him, not many Japanese men expressed so openly their love of being in competition and sheer desire to win. Japanese 'boys' are often described by those who know them well (e.g., journalists) sweet, kind, sensitive, moody, sometimes even naive. Makoto Okazaki, former skater himself and now an international technical specialist, once described the difference between Japanese ladies and men at competitions - there is often so much tension between the girls at competitions that it could even be scary sometimes, but, despite their rivalry, boys are friendly and sometimes found chatting to each other in the locker room just before the competition begins. There is, according to Makoto, an atmosphere that they are in it together and might as well support each other.
    Why do you think there's such a difference between Japanese men and women in skating (at least until Yuzuru)? Is this true of other areas of competition in Japanese society? For instance, competing against each other at their work, in school, are women more likely to be openly competitive while the men remain friendly? This is the exact opposite of most other societies I know of. Why do you think that is?

    Quote Originally Posted by mot View Post
    Johnny in his tweets called Yuzuru his favourite and cheered for him for the FCC, as well as, for some reasons, ended up designing the costume for him.
    This explains so so much. I always thought Yuzuru's costume had some really Johnny-ish embellishments. I used to think they were homages, now I find out it's just Johnny's lack of creativity.

  13. #28
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    Quote Originally Posted by Serious Business View Post
    ...I always thought Yuzuru's costume had some really Johnny-ish embellishments. I used to think they were homages, now I find out it's just Johnny's lack of creativity.

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    This thread is interesting. Thanks, SkateFiguring!

    Yuzuru is so much like young Johnny but technically better.
    Last edited by Bluebonnet; 03-04-2011 at 10:23 AM.

  15. #30
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    Quote Originally Posted by mot View Post
    (Takahashi) had a major meltdown only 14 months or so ago at 09GPF. If you're interested in what caused it, here is a summary of his own reasoning...
    • Fatigued after coming second in Skate Canada, and also relieved that he secured a spot at GPF, he could not put 100% into practice and training running up to the GPF;
    • Knowing that he wasn't prepared, he had no choice but just to go for it for the short - he said it was his luck he got a very good score and placed first after the short;
    • He exhausted what little was left in him in the short, and he knew about it and thus was very nervous for free skate (he used the following analogous to describe the feeling - as if trying to find an excuse for not having done homework for the next day);
    • During the practice and warm-up, lacking in confidence, he was trying his best to look good and strong - he said he was all the while ashamed of and hating himself for being like that;
    • He was actually scared of going on ice to skate;
    • Failing the quad, his mind went blank. Lost concentration, he wasn't even sure what he was doing (only one of three spins was counted, as he repeated CCoSp three times);
    • He analyses being too nervous caused loss of concentration, and only knowing that he had practised enough and was thus prepared could allow him to believe he could do it whatever happens.

    I believe it all still comes down to the mind. The real cause is nervousness and the belief in his inability to perform on that occasion, i.e. the LP. There were causes for such belief, beginning with physical one (inadequate training due to fatique), then a cascade of nagative beliefs set in. He was able to do well in the SP but he attributed it to luck instead of using it positively to build his confidence. Then guilt and shame set in. He felt unworthy of winning without doing the "homework" (an ingrained belief), feeling ashamed and even self loathe for "looking" good and strong at practice and warm up instead being encouraged for "being" good and strong enough to look good and strong. Feeling like a poser, he became scared of being found out and scared to actually perform. The outcome was entirely predictable. He first failure (4T fall) made him lose focus on the moment completely, resulting in an inevitable meltdown. I believe it was self punishment. By going for the quad anyway with such total lack of confidence in himself, he ensured that he would fail the entire program.

    I believe that if he had believed in himself, there was probably still enough reserve in him to do his LP decently well, like he did for the SP, which he however believed to be his last capable effort and a shameful luck. He couldn't even welcome good luck and believe in it. The short cut solution to his problem could be mind over matter with a strong belief and confidence in himself. But such mental state was impossible for him due to many other ingrained beliefs, mainly that only hard work and what he considered adequate training could bring good results, and any good results without such preparation was something to be guilty about. That was his strong sense of honour. He could not violate the beliefs nor the honour. Ergo, the total "deserved" failure.

    Only knowing that he had practised enough and was thus prepared could allow him to believe he could do it whatever happens.
    It's not "that he had practised enough and was thus prepared" that ensures "he could do it whatever happens". It is the "knowing" that could allow him to believe he could. And when he believes he could, he can.

    His analysis was correct that the cause of his implosion was nervousness (and shame and guilt). Note the insufficient training itself is not the direct cause. To prevent such nervousness in a way that is congruent with his beliefs, he had to put in the work of physical practice and training. With the lesson learned and if he keeps to it, such implosion will not happen again. From a mental perspective, he could have adjusted his mind over the situation, using every happening to stay positive instead of building negative thoughts. He could have also done a lot of mental practice of his skating when physically limited. There have been experiments conducted that show mental practice is almost, if not equally, as effective as physical practice.

    He said he was least nervous at the Olympics last season, as he knew he practised as much as he could. He thought to himself, whatever happened, it could not be worse than the GPF - he reckons that his meltdown at GPF somehow helped him to be less nervous for the biggest event of the season.
    Here he did use the event positively to great results.
    Last edited by SkateFiguring; 03-04-2011 at 12:23 PM.

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