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McLoughlin’s Mental Resilience

31 May 2017

Funky Trunks athlete Jack McLoughlin mentally prepares for racing

Tap...tap...tap...as the beat hits, Australian Olympic swimmer and F-Teamer Jack McLoughlin takes another stroke. The beat plays on repeat in the back of his mind throughout the 1500m freestyle, helping him get into a rhythm and stay on his race plan for the toughest distance in the pool. The stroke rate is engrained in his subconscious having listened to it in headphones for months on end in the build up to his debut at the Rio Olympics. While most athletes prefer a playlist, for Jack, that beat became his soundtrack to everyday life.

The 1500m event isn't for the faint-hearted, and the 21-year-old Queenslander takes pride in competing in a distance that a select number of revered Australian swimmers have conquered over the years. At first Jack was reluctant to take on the 1500m, only shifting to the longer distance after moving to a new coach and training program.

"My previous coach thought that the 1500 metres was too long a distance for me so I stuck to the 200 and 400 which I had always enjoyed. When I started working with my current coach, Vince Raleigh, we had a discussion about my future and where I could excel. Vince believed I could do the 1500m if I was willing to do the work, and I definitely was. I will do whatever it takes to be the best so together, we got to work," Jack says.

Since adopting the training loads required for the 1500m, Jack has grown to love and respect the distance while appreciating the tactical manoeuvres required to succeed. After qualifying for his first Olympics in 2016 behind Mack Horton with an incredible personal best time of 14:48.60, Jack worked diligently on all aspects of his race strategy leading into Rio. There, he swam a time of 14:56.02, narrowly missing the final by 0.22 seconds which, although disappointing for Jack, has only served to strengthen his passion for the distance.

"The 1500 is all about tactics. There's a lot of mind games and more options for your race plan compared to the 100 free where if one thing goes wrong, your race is over. I have always respected the endurance events and grew up watching Grant Hackett and Craig Stevens race. Racing the 1500 is a real challenge and something to be proud of," he says.

The mental strength that the distance requires is an aspect of distance swimming that Jack relishes.

"I've always been very good at toughing things out, I refuse to give up. Every time I race, I want to go harder, do better. If you're stronger mentally than someone who is the same as you physically, you will have a better result," Jack says.

Funky Trunks athlete Jack McLoughlin

Jack's top tip to build the mental strength required to achieve your dreams is to practice during training. He believes that if you consistently train intensively and push yourself beyond your limits, then when it comes to race day you have the knowledge that you have been through worse to motivate you.

"By working on your mental strength during training, you will learn that you can push through the pain as you've done it so many times before. I was once told that the most difficult thing about swimming competitively should be training and that racing should always be easy. This means you should be training yourself to push through anything thrown your way," he says.

With an iron resolve and Olympic sized motivation to reach his goals, there's no doubt Jack will be pushing through the pain as he prepares for the upcoming World Championships where he will race the 1500m free and 5km Open Water event.

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