Thirteen ways to think like an Olympic champion

Story highlights

  • Sports psychology experts reveal how athletes mentally prepare for competitions
  • Athletes should embrace the butterflies, prepare for the worst and "get in their bubble"

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(CNN)At the Rio Olympics, athletes are now gearing up to give the Games everything they've got.

The outcome of years of training will come down to just a few days, or even moments, in these next few weeks -- all of it watched closely by billions of people worldwide.
As well as being in absolute peak physical condition, every athlete will need to be in just as good condition mentally -- or psychologically -- in order to handle the multitude of pressures awaiting them. CNN asked top sports psychology experts to reveal just what it takes to perform well under pressure -- and, more important, win.

    Ignore the competition

    "Focus very much on yourself and your own abilities rather than people too much," said David Fletcher, senior lecturer in sport and performance psychology at Loughborough University. "You have to be very preoccupied with your own performance, almost bordering on obsessional."
    This may sound strange because sport is all about beating the competition, but Fletcher insists that it's better for athletes to focus on themselves rather than compare their efforts to others: "Michael Phelps, the most successful Olympian in history, has been beaten. If he put too much emphasis on coming first all of the time, then that would crush him."

    Set achievable goals

    Motivation is a key psychological factor: "If people feel like they're good at something, then they're going to do it more," Fletcher said. The implication for athletes and coaches is to set lots of different achievable goals, he says. If all goes to plan, the athletes soon feel like they're improving.

    Embrace the butterflies