Training mind as well as body helped Alexandre Bilodeau capture moguls gold
February 15, 2010 06:02:00 Donna Spencer, The Canadian Press VANCOUVER - Alexandre
Bilodeau trained his mind as well as his body to win Canada's first Olympic gold
medal on home turf.
The native of Rosemere, Que., who won the men's moguls crown at
the Vancouver Winter Games on Sunday, spent 40 hours in a Montreal lab with sensors
hooked up to his head and body in an effort to get both parts working together.
Penny Werthner, the team's psychiatrist, monitored the responses of his body and
mind to various stresses and stimuli. She saw how he reacted and helped him find
ways to change those reactions if they were harmful to his performance.
is called bioneurofeedback, which Werthner administered to Canada's moguls and aerials
teams over the course of several months to prepare for the Games.
is learning yourself," Bilodeau says. "How you can put yourself into a state where
you can perform the max."
Bioneurofeedback was one of about 55 projects under the
banner of Top Secret, which was the science and technology component of Own The Podium.
OTP, the $117-million, five-year plan designed to help Canada win the most medals
at the Olympics, spent about $8 million on Top Secret.
Bilodeau learned that he carried
tension in his shoulders that affected his performance. It was his brain creating
tension so, change the brain, lose the tension. He learned breathing techniques,
but since every athlete is different, he had to learn breathing techniques specific
"Breathing through my shoulders, breathing through my legs and breathing through
my mind, it helps you to let it go and bring your focus into the present moment,"
he said. "The hardest thing for an athlete in any sport is to stay in the right now."
is a word used a lot in sports, but athletes often don't know what it is, says Werthner.
think they get it, but they don't understand the important part that physiology plays
in this and how focus relies on physical calmness," she said.
"What screws up every
Olympic performance, I think, is over-anxiety and trying to do too much and try to
hard. This is the tool that's helped them understand that."
Bilodeau how to relax between runs. He uses a specific type of recovery breathing
about five minutes before his performances. Then, he flips the mental switch into
performance-mode for the next 25 to 30 seconds down the hill.
"Focus takes a lot of
energy," Werthner says. "It's a very difficult balance to be very intense, committed
to do well, and yet have this calmness of 'I can do this.' That's an incredibly hard
combination to get. It's not easy to win an Olympic medal and Alex was brilliant.
found this tool really useful — it's not some miracle thing by any means — but a
useful way to help athletes become much more self-aware, but most important to train