World record holder Rafa Munoz, training in South Africa

World record holder Rafa Munoz, training in South Africa. (Photo: Inigo Mujika)

2012. Olympic Year. Like every four years the dreams of millions of athletes from all over the world will come true or vanish in less than 200 days. I have my own Olympic dreams and aspirations too: that the athletes I work with make it to the Olympic Games, and that they perform at their best once they get there.

I have started this Olympic year at a training camp with the Spanish swimmers in South Africa. It has been a very intense camp, both in terms of training and also emotionally. During one of the team-building activities in the program, I have shared with the group that for years I have had a passion for films and travelling. This is nothing new for those of you who know me personally, but it may come as a bit of a surprise for those who thought that sport is my only passion. In reality, and no matter how different these three passions of mine may seem, there are common aspects to the three of them. Like most travelers I usually get on the way to reach a destination, but I have learnt over the years to also enjoy the journey. As a spectator, I like to see the end of a film, but watching and enjoying the whole story is necessary to understand and appreciate the end of it.

In the words of the character Ferrand, alter ego of the great French film director François Truffaut, films advance like trains, like trains in the night, and people in the film industry are made to be happy making films. And what is training for an athlete, other than boarding a train somewhere and making a journey to a different place, to a higher level of performance? For a train to reach its destination numerous railroad professionals are needed. Some may even go along the entire way. But the athletes are the travelers, the only reason to put the train in motion, and as such they must take control of the journey, decide where they want to go, and make sure that they live and enjoy every bit of the way. The destination can be fascinating, but how they got there is even more so.

During this training camp I have listened to personal stories of athletes that would make wonderful film scripts. Olympic athletes are the stars of their own films. They may be surrounded by producers, scriptwriters and makeup artists, but there is no film without the actors. Actors love acting and enjoy the process of making a film, not just watching the end result. Athletes should also make sure they enjoy the process of making their own film, make suggestions to the film director and help re-write the script to improve the story. Only total commitment with the project can guarantee success on opening night.

While I am here in South Africa, one of my favorite athletes is thousands of kilometers from here, also training hard in pursuit of her own Olympic dream. She has had two previous Olympic experiences: she lived the first one like being in a cloud; the second one turned into a bit of a frustrating nightmare, but she fought hard to get another chance. That third opportunity in now less than 200 days away, and I have no doubt that she is going to give everything she’s got to make sure she enjoys the journey, reaches her destination and the film she stars in becomes a success.

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  1. Skipper

    Hey Inigo, your swimming research book finally arrived and now its littered with pencil marks and post it notes….. It’s great, you have done an excellent job! Can you share anything new or innovative that the Spanish swimmers are doing on their camps? How is Rafa’s coach adapted his training/technique now that there are no ‘super’ swim suits?

    January 30, 2012
  2. Iñigo Mujika

    Thank you Skipper, glad you like it. I don’t think we are doing anything new or innovative, just focusing on doing the basics right and trying to make no mistakes. Rafa’s coach is trying to extend the stroke, working on his head and shoulder movement and a slight pronation in the hand entry

    January 30, 2012
  3. Naravut

    Hello Dr. Mujika,

    today you lectured at the Goethe-University in Frankfurt about “Detraining”, and I want to thank you for this great lecture. Dr. Mujika, I would like to ask you for a favour: You mentioned a case study of an high-performance-rower, who quit after the Olympic and try an comeback 10 month after he quit. Can you please send me this study? What I’m interested in is: Are the endurance adaptions of the rower also forming back faster than he trained for years, like the muscle memory of an bodybuilder who quitted for a while?

    Thank you in advance, Dr. Mujika, and
    greeting from Frankfurt


    January 19, 2015