For The Record

Issue 16 2015


Follow three athletes on their journey to the Rio 2016 Olympics

Jaroslav Kulhavý
“The best part about mountain biking is having the freedom to move in nature, without any disturbances, where the only limit is your own capacity.”

Wu Minxia
“Diving is a very demanding sport. If you want to be successful, you must first have a goal that you want to achieve.”

Javier Gómez
“My ambition is always to get better and after winning the silver medal in London, the only way to get better in Rio is to win the gold.”


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London 2012 Olympic gold medallist Jaroslav Kulhavý is determined to defend his Mountain Biking cross-country title in Rio in 2016. Here, the 30-year-old Czech rider discusses his passion for the sport and the keys to his success.

Training during the off-season is more about endurance. My favourite winter training locations are Mallorca and the Canary Islands. Mallorca is a paradise for cyclists with a nearly endless choice of tracks and a very good climate. All winter, there is a large group of cyclists, so I can always find someone to ride and train with. The Canary Islands are more demanding because of the many hills and limited flat areas. Both destinations are easily accessible from Europe.

My bike has a unique air-sprung system called a ‘brain’ which determines when and how the front fork and shock absorbers perform. In short, the system is able to evaluate when to operate and, as a result, it saves a lot of a biker’s energy and enhances performance. I have won all my titles on this bike.

Over the winter months, I have a period where I can afford to eat anything I want, unlike during the competitive season. I enjoy eating classic Czech meals, some sweets, and sometimes I will go for a beer. During the season, my diet is mostly pasta, rice, potatoes, vegetables, quality meat and other proteins.

“The best part about mountain biking is having the freedom to move in nature, without any disturbances, where the only limit is your own capacity. I always find it relaxing to get out on the bike and clear my mind.”

Rio 2016 already seems very close and I’ve been planning how best to prepare for the Olympic Games once again.

I’m ready to train at 100 per cent and do everything possible to defend the gold medal. Having already fulfilled my dream of gold, the pressure on me won’t be as huge this time. On the other hand, as I’m the Olympic champion, everyone will be watching me and observing my every step before the race.

I don’t have too much free time away from mountain biking. There are many things I would like to do that I have no time for during the season – for example, I am still finishing some things at my new house. I am definitely not bored.

Winning the 2014 UCI Mountain Bike Marathon World Championships in South Africa was one of the biggest goals that I wanted to achieve. It was the last major title I was missing so I really appreciated that victory.

The entire day of the Olympic race in London in 2012 was amazing. I think it was the best day of my career. I can’t fully describe the feeling. I was entirely focused on this one day all year long and, finally, everything came together exactly as I wanted.


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Competing at my first Olympic Games in Athens in 2004 was the realisation of a dream for me. I was quite nervous because there were so many athletes from all over the world, but I was also very excited.

I was only 18, but I was competing in the synchro alongside Guo Jingjing, who was more mature and more experienced than me. That made me feel a lot more at ease and helped me perform to my best.

In London in 2012, I was far more experienced than at my previous Games and I was better able to handle all the pressure. I competed in the synchro with a new partner [He Zi] but this time I was the more experienced and mature one, so I felt like the team leader.

Winning the 3m individual gold in London [following silver and bronze in Athens and Beijing] felt like a reward for all my previous years of effort. I felt like I was finally recognised by everyone for what I had achieved.

“Competing at the Olympic Games is a very special experience – they are unlike any other event. The atmosphere and the feelings you get when you are competing are totally different.”

Diving looks scarier than it actually is; the key is to start with the basics and then gradually work your way up to more difficult dives or higher boards. Each athlete should only choose the difficulty that suits him or her, and then it won’t be scary.

Being able to compete in front of Chinese fans at the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games was a once-in-a-lifetime experience. We knew the atmosphere in the venue would be on a different level to anything we had experienced before – even when I was diving I could hear people cheering for me – but we were able to prepare for that by simulating the noise of the crowd during our training.

Training is so important for diving, especially when you’re young. Diving is a very skilful sport, so when you’re young you need to learn the very specific manoeuvres through training. But when you grow up you need to use your brain more and think about your training because as you get older, it can take you longer to recover and can be more difficult to do the things that you used to be able to do.

Diving is a very demanding sport. If you want to be successful, you must first have a goal that you want to achieve. Secondly, you must never give up. If you have more perseverance than the others, you can keep going until the end and achieve whatever you want.


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The first Olympic Games I watched were in Barcelona in 1992. Back then, I was a swimmer so I remember closely following the swimming events, as well as other sports such as athletics. Ever since then I wanted to be an Olympian.

One of my sporting heroes when I was younger was Alexander Popov, the Olympic and world champion and former world record holder for the 50m and 100m freestyle. I looked up to him because he had a really good swimming technique and I wanted to be able to swim as fast as he could.

I prepare mentally for each race differently. All of them are important, but if you have a big race, or a big goal, then you have to be more focused and think about it more. For the big races, you want to be well rested, so you can use all of your energy and perform at your best for the next one hour and 45 minutes. I don’t do anything special before the big races; I just try to be relaxed, think about the race and plan my strategy.

My favourite thing about triathlon is that I can do three sports in one. It means I’m not always training for one sport, which makes it more of a challenge. Most of the time, if you’re feeling good in the water, then you won’t be feeling so good when you’re running, or the other way around. So, you always have to work at being good at all three disciplines.

I completed my first triathlon at age 15. It was just a local race after the swimming season had finished, and it was a chance to do something different and try a new sport – a new experience. It was pretty tough, as it was over the Olympic distance, but I found I really liked the sport and I knew it suited me pretty well.

Right from the beginning, I knew that I was good at triathlon and could do well, but you never know how good you can be. I never dreamed of being a world champion, as it seemed so far away at the time. But as I began to do better and better, and win bigger and bigger races, I realised that it was something I could achieve. The first time I was world champion, as an under-23 in 2003, was a huge moment.

I don’t have a very strict diet; I just try to eat healthily. We’re training at least three times a day, so burn a lot of calories. I have reduced the gluten in my diet, and I feel better because of that – I digest food better and I feel a bit stronger. Other than that, I try to eat vegetables and good meat or good fish.

I usually train three times a day. The first session is normally swimming, where I cover distances of 4km to 6km. That’s followed by a bike session of two to two-and-a-half hours. After lunch and a nap, I do the running session, which is between 15km and 20km. Every day is different, though, so sometimes we’ll include track sessions or gym workouts – it depends on the time of the year.

“My ambition is always to get better and after winning the silver medal in London, the only way to get better in Rio is to win the gold.”

I know it’s going to be very tough – my rivals are going to get better as well and it’s going to be a very competitive race, but I believe in myself and I believe that I have a chance to fight for the gold medal. That’s what I’m training for, so hopefully the next year or so will go well and I will be ready when I get to the start line at the Games, because I would really like to win that gold.

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