For The Record

Issue 13 2015

EN / FR

Three experienced Olympians hungry for further success in Rio 2016!

Alexandra do Nascimento

Kaori Icho

Mark Knowles

ALEXANDRA DO NASCIMENTO

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Brazilian handball star Alexandra do Nascimento – the IHF World Player of the Year in 2012 – is hoping that reigning world champions Brazil can excite the home crowd at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.

I first started playing handball when I was 10 years old. My father was a professional footballer and my whole family was very sporty. My father taught me how to play football when I was young, but I don’t think I was very talented! I also took part in swimming and volleyball, but handball was the sport I found most suited to me.

I have competed in three Olympic Games, which were very special experiences, as was winning the world championships for the first time in 2013. We have another world championships in Denmark in 2015 and then the Olympic Games in Rio, and I hope to share my experiences with my younger team-mates so that we can achieve more success. Rio 2016 could be my last Olympic Games, so I hope we will have more good experiences.

Professional athletes have to train a lot, and sometimes you need time away so you can regain your energy. I like watching films and reading, or simply taking a walk with my husband. It’s important for my vitality.

My sporting heroes when I was younger were (USA basketballer) Michael Jordan and (Brazilian Formula One racing driver) Ayrton Senna. They both had great charisma and charm and I enjoyed reading books about the success they enjoyed in their careers, as it motivated me in my own career.

KAORI ICHO

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Japanese wrestler Kaori Icho has made the women’s 63kg category her own, winning all three Olympic titles since the sport was added to the Olympic programme in 2004. Now, she hopes to challenge for further glory in Rio in 2016.

I started wrestling when I was 3 years old. I always dreamt of competing at the Olympic Games, but I don’t think I ever really believed I would get the chance.

Although I’ve been wrestling for a long time and have competed in three Olympic Games, I actually thought about retiring from the sport after my first Games. In the end, I decided to continue and keep training hard. Then, after my second Games, I thought about retiring again. But I didn’t give up and went on to compete in my third Games.

“It is hard work and you need to sacrifice a lot, but I’m pleased I didn’t give up. My advice to young athletes is to have that same determination and to never give up.”

Wrestling is a sport that requires you to be an all-round athlete. You not only have to have physical strength; you also have to be very strong in mind and spirit. But most importantly, if you don’t have any interest, or if you lack the motivation to train, you won’t be successful.

When I retire, I hope that I can teach young people how to wrestle and make this sport a lifelong career.

MARK KNOWLES

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Australian hockey captain Mark Knowles was just 19 when he won Olympic gold in Athens in 2004. After bronze medals in 2008 and 2012, he is hoping to lead the Kookaburras to the top of the podium once again in Rio.

My mum and dad took me to watch the Olympic Games in Sydney in 2000. That had a really big effect on me and I said then that I wanted to play at the Olympic Games one day. That experience really changed me and changed what I thought about hockey. I never thought I’d be playing in Athens four years later; my goal was just to make it to the 2008 Games.

My preparation before a match is pretty simple. I like to look at the opposition, but I also like to think about my own game – where I’ve played well and where I’ve let myself down. Our coach has really instilled in us the belief that we can win as long as we play as well as he knows we can. That’s given me a lot of confidence and I now think that if we’re at our best we’re going to be very hard to beat.

Off the field, we’ve now got a much stronger focus on the mental side of the game. We have a team of psychologists who work with our group on things like critical conversations, open and honest communication, giving and receiving feedback, and dealing with disappointment such as missing out on selection or suffering a defeat.

Top athletes need to be approachable and connected to the youth and that’s something I’ve tried to do with social media. I’m happy for kids to contact me and ask questions on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. As hockey players, we don’t have millions of followers, so I always encourage youngsters to get in touch.

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