When Not To Think

Alexander Wolff of sportsillustrated.com writes today of a Dutch speedskater:

Holland’s Sven Kramer was as certain a gold medalist in the 10,000 meters as any contestant in any event at these Games. The world-record holder had been on his way to an Olympic record with eight laps to skate, holding a steadily expanding lead of more than six seconds over Lee Seung-Hoon of South Korea. That’s when Kramer’s coach, Gerard Kemkers, called out “inner lane!”

In the space of that moment Kramer hesitated. His right skate flew over one of the pylons that mark the lanes as they head into each curve, but he dutifully — and erroneously — headed to the inside, then skated home in what would have been a comfortable winning time of 12:54.50.

But Kemkers had messed up. Kramer sailed over the finish believing he had won his second gold of the Games. “Maybe this was my best 10K ever,” he would later say. “Every stroke was 100 percent.” It was left to Kemkers to go up to Kramer and tell him he had been disqualified for crossing over into the wrong lane. A venue full of orange-clad Dutch, whose cheers Kramer had consumed like fuel, fell silent.

Veldkamp is right: You leave an athlete, especially one as natural as Kramer, to do what he has been trained to do. Anything else is lunacy.

In the middle of competing, don’t think, just do. It’s the job of your Intuitive Mind rather than your Thinking Mind to get you to your peak performance. A really rough lesson for Kemkers who should know better. And a tragedy for Kramer who was doing everything right up to the point when he listened to his coach.

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