The Secrets Of Successful Athletes

by | Jul 8, 2024 | Profile

What motivates successful athletes? Few professions are as subject to turmoil and change as that of the athlete. There are always new records to break, a new avenue to improve and new wins to attain. Having been at the top for so long, they’re well-equipped to dish out success secrets. We totally recommend taking a leaf out of these incredible athletes’ books and use their words as fuel on your own journey.

Tatjana Smith: Find Calm In The Pressure 

Image: Quaid Jones

There are few certainties in life but knowing the future is not one of them. This is something Olympic swimmer Tatjana Smith is mindful of. Before every race, she listens to worship music to settle those nerves and surrender to the unknown. “Listening to worship music reminds me why I’m swimming, keeps me calm and reminds me that I know I’m gonna go out there and give my best,” she says. “It doesn’t really matter what the outcome is. So long as I’m giving my best, I know I’m glorifying and honouring God.”

Caitlin Rooskrantz: Work Hard

Image: Supplied

Age: 22 
Hometown: Johannesburg 
Discipline: Gymnastics 

For gymnast and Olympian Caitlin Rooskrantz, putting in the necessary work is a non-negotiable. “You will reap the rewards of what you sow and see the fruit of your hard work in due time,” she says. “You might not see your results instantly, but gym taught me that it doesn’t always work that way. Trust and have faith that your time will come.”

READ MORE: How Caitlin Rooskrantz Is Blazing A Trail For Gymnastics In South Africa

Simone Biles: Prioritise Mental Health 

Age: 27
Hometown:  Ohio, United States 
Discipline:  Gymnastics 

During the 2020 Olympic Games, American gymnast Simone Biles pulled out of the team competition. Her reason? She wanted to prioritise her mental health. Her decision highlights how pressure can affect performance – and that tending to your mental health is just as important as going for gold.

Khanyisa Chawane: Be Goal-Driven 

Image: Instagram @chawanekacey

Age: 28  
Hometown: Tzaneen  
Discipline: Netball  

“What keeps me motivated is that I’m not where I want to be yet. I’ve got goals to achieve so I need to keep working,” says Proteas netball player Khanyisa Chawane. “I tell myself that what I do now counts for what lies ahead! So, not focusing on the future but making sure I give my very best at each task, now, because later I will reap the rewards.”

Katie Ledecky: Adore What You Do 

Age: 27  
Hometown: Washington, DC, USA 
Discipline: Swimming 

Olympic swimmer Katie Ledecky really likes her job – no Sunday scaries here. “I truly enjoy my sport and I don’t even view time in the gym as work. I tend to view it as play time,” says Ledecky*. “But like anyone, some days are harder than others. I focus on my goals. Goal-setting is big for me. It keeps me focused.”

Janine van Wyk: Take Breaks

 Image: Instagram @janinevanwyk5 

Age: 37  
Hometown: Alberton 
Discipline: Soccer  

Some athletes spend all year in competition – a surefire way to burn out. The solution? Rest. Legendary soccer player and now coach Janine van Wyk finds solace in her friends and family. “I get at least two to three weeks off where I get away and switch off completely from the sport,” she says. “And during that time, I try to spend as much time with my family and all my loved ones. Just make sure that they know that whatever happens in my career, I’m still me.” 

Candice Lill: Embrace Ageing 

Image: Jaroslav Svoboda

Age: 32 
Hometown: Durban 
Discipline: Cycling 

While most people are afraid of growing older, mountain biker Candice Lill is embracing the perks of maturity. “I’m obviously getting older and as I do, I get a lot more confident within myself and the experience that I have really counts for a lot,” she says. “I’m looking forward to having a period of time where it all comes together and [I] see the fruit of years of hard work. And I feel like that’s lining up for me.” 

READ MORE: How To Get Fit At 40

Anneke Spies: Embrace Fear 

Image: Instagram @annekespies

Age: 30 
Hometown: Durban 
Discipline: Weightlifting 

At first, weightlifter Anneke Spies wasn’t keen on competing with the world watching her. “I was so afraid because you’re alone on a stage and you’re lifting heavy weights in front of people staring at you. It’s very intimidating,” she says. What Anneke did? “One lady told me, ‘You’re doing this every day of your life. Today is just another day of doing it’,” she says. “I walked away going, ‘Oh, man. I enjoyed this.’” That day, she scored two new titles. 

Michelle October

Michelle is the features editor at WH. She’s immensely curious about the world, passionate about health and wellness and enjoys a good surf when the waves are good. Find her on Instagram here.

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