Congratulations to Lindsey Vonn who demonstrated the epitome of mental toughness by winning the gold medal in women’s downhill at the Vancouver Olympics. Mental toughness is defined as being able to perform at the top range of your abilities, on command, regardless of the situation. Her win demonstrated how she is not only a great athlete and fierce competitor, but was able to compete despite overwhelming media attention, medal expectations, critics, a painful shin injury, conspiracy theorists who claimed her shin injury was fabricated to diffuse expectations, and academicians with a critical perspective.
Mental toughness is a psychological skill that can be taught and developed, and mentally dealing with and tolerating pain is an essential element to successful and consistent performance. On the men’s side snowboarder Shaun White, who similarly won a gold medal in the men’s halfpipe would also exemplify mental toughness.
Many of my sport psychology colleagues work closely with the USOC, and are currently at the Olympics helping to increase the likelihood of optimal performance for Team USA. To learn more about mental toughness, psychological skills training and the field of sport psychology, there are numerous sites you can visit including:
- Association for Applied Sport Psychology
- American Psychological Association-Division 47: Sport & Exercise Psychology
- North American Society for the Psychology of Sport and Physical Activity