With Luis Villanueva, Erika Villaecija and Mireia Belmonte.

Olympic swimmers Erika Villaécija and Mireia Belmonte, along with the Technical Director of the Spanish Swimming Federation, Luis Villanueva, and myself as USP Araba Sport Clinic physiologist participated on January 19th in a round table entitled “How does an Olympic swimmer train?”. The event was also atended by the Mayor of Vitoria-Gasteiz, Patxi Lazcoz, and the President of the Spanish Swimming Federation, Fernando Carpena.

USP Araba Sport Clinic is the High Performance Medical Service of the Spanish Swimming Federation, and as such plays a key role in the preparation of the swimmers of the Olympic team until their participation in the 2012 London Olympic Games.

At the beginning of the event, the City Mayor Patxi Lazcoz underlined the tradition of sport excellence of Vitoria-Gasteiz and the need to keep promoting this area, not just for “pride and prestige”, but also as “a motor for economic recovery”.

Fernando Carpena, President of the Spanish Swimming Federation explained that the agreement between the federation and USP Hospitales was initiated by a request made by the Technical Director of the swimming federation to have access to scientific support. In physiology “he asked to have the best”, said Carpena, “and the best is Iñigo Mujika, of USP Araba Sport Clinic”.

I carry out the physiological follow-up of the swimmers and determine the evaluation protocols and interventions to be implemented with the swimmers, providing individualized practical recommendations to the coaches with the final aim of improving the swimmers’ performance. “There are no shortcuts nor secrets to achieve success, only work and more work”, I stated in my intervention. “Success can only be attained through excellent training. It is very important to do basic things extraordinarily well”. The way to excellence is paved by three basic elements: proper training, which requires precise quantification of training loads; good recovery strategies; and a nutritional program adequate to sustain the energetic demands of training, contribute to recovery and achieve an ideal body composition for competition.

The technical director of the Swimming Federation, Luis Villanueva, indicated that his goal “is not to get to the Olympic Games, but to win there”. His philosophy is winning. Villanueva explained that the Olympic games are the top competition in swimming and also the most difficult event because of its uncertainties. “The Games require a lot of hard work and the swimmers have to be optimally prepared to achieve their best performance under maximal stress”. He underlined that “training a lot is not enough to win, we need swimmers who can compete in extreme situations”. A complete commitment of the athlete with their preparation is also a must “every day of the year and every hour of the day”.

The World Champion in the 800 m Erika Villaécija explained that to win the Olympic Games “we must first think that we want and can get there”. She highlighted the capacity not to lose concentration “no matter what” and be aware that “the hours dedicated to swimming are hours of your own life, so every single one must count”. In fact Erika trains up to 80 km per week in the high volume phases.

Triple World Champion (200 and 400 IM, 200 butterfly) Mireia Belmonte also emphasized the importance of “knowing why you train”. The World Champions gave some advice to the young swimmers attending the round table and highlighted the commitment they must have to become profesional swimmers. “It is important to establish a goal, achieve it, and immediately visualize a higher goal. That is the way not to get stuck”, said Belmonte. Both athletes indicated that the support of a sport psychologist is also key in their preparation, to learn how to face complicated situations and never lose concentration.

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