The countdown to Rio

University of Queensland Bachelor of Health, Sport and Physical Education student and rhythmic gymnast Danielle Prince gives us an insight into her preparations for the Rio Olympics and how she deals with the nerves of competing on the world stage. Written on 16 July. 

Out of the corner of my eye I can see the floor marshal approaching me on the warm floor, “Australia?” she asks. “Yes that’s me”, she motions towards the competition arena, “It is time to go”. With my ball under my arm I pick up my hand towel, a tissue and my lucky bear before I follow her through to the waiting area behind the curtain. I feel my heart rate spike and a bubbling of nerves as I stand waiting for my moment to take to the competition floor. The marshal gives me the call, two minutes. Okay breathe. I close my eyes and begin my visualisation, seeing myself performing my routine, going through each element, each throw. I see myself catch my last throw and hit my finish position. I see myself stand up beaming with satisfaction, present to the judges and wave to crowd. I did it!

These final minutes before I take to the competition floor are some of the most exhilarating moments I will ever experience. After all these years you would think I am an old hand at competing but in all honesty every time I stand behind that curtain waiting to perform, I still feel like that 11 year old girl at her first Queensland State Championships. No matter how many World Championships or Commonwealth Games I’ve competed in or how many times I’ve done this routine in the training gym, nerves will always be there for me and I expect it to be no different in Rio!

In earlier years I use to get incredibly frustrated with myself for letting my emotions and nerves get the better of me. “I’ve done this a million times why am I still nervous and doubting all of my preparation?”. I use to drive myself crazy thinking that I must not have done enough if I was getting so nervous before a competition. However, as I’ve gotten older and got more competition experience under my belt I’ve learnt to acknowledge, accept and even embrace the pre competition nerves. I often tell my younger training companions that it’s okay to be nervous, it means that the competition is important to you and you want to do your best. Butterflies are good as long as you can make sure they are flying in formation.

With a mere 34 days till the Rhythmic All Around, I am training hard at a specialised rhythmic facility in St Petersburg as a final training camp before Rio, where my days go a little something like this – sleep, eat, training, repeat! I am also testing my nerves with my coaches putting me in as many high-pressured situations as possible to ensure that I am not only at my physical peak but also mentally ready for the games.

“You have done this routine a thousand times in training. Out on the carpet it is just me and the apparatus, nothing else exists. Not the crowds or the judges or the scores. Just me and the ball.” I open my eyes and hear the announcer in the competition arena, “Now please welcome to the floor” I stand up tall, stomach in, shoulders down, tall posture, wide eyes. This is your moment. Take it in. “Danielle Prince from Australia”.

This blog was originally published on 'Dani's Blog' on the Australian Olympic team website. 

Last updated:
22 July 2016