Getting to the top, and then staying there, takes more than hard work. My Focus, presented by Milk Life, tells the stories of one area that 24 athletes are honing in on in their quest to stand atop the podium at the next Olympic or Paralympic Games.
Jamie Greubel Poser has long been among the best bobsled drivers in the world.
She won a bronze medal at the Olympic Winter Games Sochi 2014 and bronze at the 2017 world championships in Germany. She also claimed the overall world cup title for the 2016-17 season. So, Greubel Poser, 34, has been excellent for a long time.
Yet the former heptathlete at Cornell always is looking for an edge and trying to stay ahead of the competition, which includes U.S. teammate Elana Meyers Taylor, a two-time individual world champion and two-time Olympic medalist (silver in 2014 and bronze in 2010).
Now, with another Olympics looming next month, Greubel Poser has been focusing on better mental preparation as a way to maximize her results.
One way she’s trying to achieve that is to get the most out of every practice run by setting specific goals.
“(That) helps me make sure that I am making the most of each run,” she said. “I take notes of things that went well or not so well after each run and I make sure that I take the time to process what I just did.
“I also do video review with my coaches and speak to other drivers on my team about the track so we can work together to figure out what steers or adjustments need to be made.”
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The notes and discussion can better help her prepare for the next run or competition because she says it can be “challenging to remember exactly how something happened when you are processing it from inside a sled at 90 miles per hour.”
Greubel Poser says practice time is limited during a season. She and her teammates race on nine tracks, with each having its own combination of 14 to 20 curves. With just six practice runs each week before a competition, she notes that’s only about six minutes total to try to master a track before race day. So they’re trying to figure out how to shave fractions of a second off their times while roaring down the chute at 75 to 95 mph.
“Being mentally prepared allows me to be confident and ready to do just that, and do so as safely as possible,” she said. “The more experience you have, the better you know the layout of the track and what to anticipate — each tiny little shift, bump, pressure point. You know how to handle those. In a sport measured to the hundredth of a second, there is no room for hesitation.”
And as the sled’s driver, she feels an extra sense of responsibility to her teammate.
“There is no room for showing up to the track being unprepared to drive,” she said.
Greubel Poser has done well so far this season, winning three world cup medals and finishing the circuit ranked fourth.
One of those races, in Park City, Utah, in November, resulted in a victory for Greubel Poser and brakeman Lauren Gibbs. The pair also finished second the next week at the world cup stop at Whistler in British Columbia.
As the Games in South Korea approach, Greubel Poser says she’s confident the extra focus on mental preparation will pay off.
“Setting a few goals each run has helped me improve my driving and not over-think everything,” she said. “If I take the time to focus and prepare mentally, I know I’m ready to do my best, and that’s what I go for every time I compete.”
Doug Williams covered three Olympic Games for two Southern California newspapers and was the Olympic editor for the San Diego Union-Tribune. He has written for TeamUSA.org since 2011 as a freelance contributor on behalf of Red Line Editorial, Inc.