You’ve got to be a certain type of athlete to compete in the 10km marathon swim. Two hours of battling it out in icy waters is a tough gig. Even tougher: beating the little voice inside your head telling you to slow down.Name: Melissa Gorman
Lives: Boondall, QLD
Achievements: Silver in the 2011 World Championships 5km Team Time Trial; bronze in the 2010 World Championships 10km Open Water; bronze in the 2010 Commonwealth Games 800m Freestyle
Gorman’s mum, Kerrie, signed her up for Nippers at the age of seven. “That’s where my love of open water swimming came from,” Gorman says.
“As a teenager I moved to train with [renowned swim coach] Ken Wood – he encouraged me to focus on pool events because he believed I could represent Australia.”
Gorman dedicated six years to the pool, and it paid off in 2006 when she won silver at the Commonwealth Games in the 800m freestyle. It was later that year that open water swimming was added to the Olympic program.
“When I found out I knew I had to give it a go,” Gorman says.
Group mentalityTransitioning from a swimming pool to the open water was a lot harder than Gorman expected:
“When I first started open-water swimming I found it difficult to come to terms with the fact that I had to consider other competitors in my race plan,” she says.
After completing a psychology degree last year, Gorman now thrives on the tactical and mental aspect of the sport.
“I love the unpredictability of it, and that it’s not just a physical race – but also a mental one.”
Power of the mind“The biggest thing I’ve learnt from my studies is how powerful the mind can be,” Gorman says.
“It’s important to get your mind to work for you instead of letting it work against you. You’ve got to challenge your thoughts in a positive way.”
There are often times in the 10km that Gorman feels as inspired as a dead fish.
“In sport it’s inevitable that at some stage you’re going to experience fatigue. It’s when you’re really hurting that the evil self-talk creeps in and tries to take over” she says.
Pushing through the pain barrier is about turning that negative self-talk around.
“I find the best way to do that is to remind yourself of everything you’ve done to get to that moment and why you’re doing it,” Gorman says.
How Gorman stays motivated:“I swim because I love it and I race because I want to win – by reminding myself of that and mentally priding myself that I won’t go down without a fight, I can make myself keep going when all I want to do is slow down.”
According to Gorman, the key to winning is being able to push through that barrier before the negative self-talk starts to affect your race: “The quicker you can turn the negatives into positives, the better.”