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World Cup winners Australia experiencing Post-Olympic Gold Depression

Half of members of World Cup-winning Aussie team are far from their best at ongoing IPL, writes Harsha Bhogle.

Written by Harsha Bhogle |
Updated: May 1, 2015 1:05:00 am

There is a peculiar phenomenon in sport that champion athletes talk about. For want of a better expression, we can call it the Post-Olympic Gold Depression. Athletes train years for that one moment, all their energies are focussed on winning that one event, it becomes a mission in life. When you train, you have a purpose, when you eat, even when you sleep, you have a purpose. Winning thereafter produces an explosion of emotions. There cannot be a greater feeling.

But in the days after that some athletes start experiencing a purposelessness. There is no immediate need to train a certain way, you get up in the morning and there is no goal in front of you. It is almost like there is nothing to look forward to. As Steve Redgrave, who won five Olympic gold medals says, “I had not invested a second’s effort into thinking what was going to happen after that 8 o’clock start or where, six minutes later, we were going to finish.

In my mind, everything led up to that moment, with nothing beyond it … suddenly the harsh reality dawns that the event you have made out to be the most important in your life is behind you.”

I have seen that happen in other walks of life too. Students who have worked for 3-4 years to get into an IIT, feel burnt out and thereafter struggle at the course they staked everything on. Actors at the end of a long-running play, I’m certain, feel the same way when the curtain comes down one last time.

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I found something similar happening to me after a particularly draining Inter-College final. We were underdogs, the opposition had some Ranji Trophy players, we fought hard and the tail collapsed when we were not too far away. As the not out batsman, I saw the effort built over a couple of days disintegrate. It took me an eternity to get home. The next day we had a senior division league match and while we took the field, no one was really there. We were insipid, we shouldn’t have played.

Now that was but a small sporting moment even if it felt like it was the biggest at the time! Imagine what it must be after the biggest event of all! And, as I saw a few people in the early days of this year’s IPL, I wondered if they were experiencing their version of the Post-Olympic Gold Depression. Glenn Maxwell couldn’t put bat to ball, why he even dropped a catch!

The ball seems to rebel as it leaves James Faulkner’s hand. Before he was injured Aaron Finch didn’t quite look like a World Cup winner walking out. And while Mitchell Johnson wasn’t really at this threatening best throughout the World Cup, I saw him shrug his shoulders and walk back after Suryakumar Yadav played two pick up shots for six over long leg.

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Shane Watson took 4 games off and Mitchell Starc, bowling with a lot of fire, had a few days to recharge the batteries and look ahead. Only David Warner, and to some extent Steve Smith, from that World Cup winning side seem to exhibit the same drive. I would love to talk to them, as indeed to Brendon McCullum, about how it must be to put aside such a big day and come back to compete on another stage; a fairly big one but not quite in the same league!

A sports psychology consultant says “The athletes are so focused in preparation for the Games that their whole psyche is wrapped up in it. Very often, when the Olympics end, there’s a psychological letdown, even if it’s a positive experience.” I could be completely wrong but maybe the likes of Maxwell and Faulkner felt the same way, maybe they wanted to have a period with nothing to do, maybe they dragged themselves onto the field the first couple of days, maybe the post-high exhaustion left the muscles tired and in need of rejuvenation. Maybe the morning didn’t bring a “wow” with it.

I wonder if that has implications for how teams are selected. If there are people who are still recovering from the high, still struggling to break out of the moment, should you pick them? Do you look for people who are able to move on quickly and are therefore ready to enjoy another contest? In our relentless cricket world, is that another character trait to study?

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And so, have you had your version of the Post-Olympic Gold Depression too?

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First published on: 30-04-2015 at 02:30:02 am

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