Athletes swap tutorials for track

August 22, 2003

British athletes at this weekend's World Championships in Paris will have a psychology professor on hand to get them in the right frame of mind to win medals.

But David Collins, team psychologist from Edinburgh University, will be trying to calm the competitors down, rather than pump them up.

"These athletes are already highly motivated, sometimes over-motivated," he said. "I help them concentrate on the task and not on peripheral issues."

Professor Collins, a professor of physical education and sport performance, fulfils three main roles at championships: monitoring competitors'

well-being, encouraging a positive atmosphere in the camp and being on call for emergencies.

To aid concentration, Professor Collins encourages the athletes to use, among other techniques, imagery of rhythmic-based movements. "I encourage them not to generate any interference, to trust their body and that the best performances are often automatic."

The British team includes several students. One medal prospect is Chris Rawlinson, a 400m hurdler from Loughborough University. Mr Rawlinson has a BSc in sports science and a Commonwealth Games gold medal under his belt.

He has just completed an MSc in marketing and management at Loughborough, having trained as a full-time athlete for two years in between his BSc and masters.

Studying provided a vital balance to his athletic life. "You can become too obsessed with athletics. If you have something else to focus on and you get injured and can't compete in a major championship, you don't then feel that you've wasted nine months of your life only training."

Teammate Abi Oyepitan, 23, graduated from Brunel University with a BA in politics and sociology, and is finishing a two-year MA in human rights and social change at City University.

Ms Oyepitan, a sprinter competing in the 200m, hopes to run a personal best in Paris and at least reach the semi-finals, before turning her sights on the Olympics.

European U23 400m champion Helen Karagounis, a member of the 4 x 400m relay team, is studying for a BA in classical civilisations at Nottingham University.

Ms Karagounis is in her final year of study and is managing to combine part-time work in a shop, academic life and athletics, with the full support of her university.

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