Updated: Oct 7, 2018
Ever wondered what it would be like to line up in an Olympic Final, in front of a packed stadium and a global television audience of hundreds of millions watching? How would you go about controlling your nerves?
Well we caught up with 2004 Olympic silver medalist, Clinton Hill. Clinton took on the weight of a nation, on the biggest stage in world sport and not only held his nerve but produced the goods! In one of the most stirring performances of the Athens Games, Hill anchored the men's 4x400 metres relay team to a surprise silver medal. Receiving the baton at the start of the last leg in fifth position, Hill held his nerve and passed three countries with a final split of 44.61 to secure the silver position.
Clinton is a 2-time Track and Field Olympian, boasting an Olympic Silver Medal from the 2004 Athens Olympic Games and a Gold Medal from the 2006 Melbourne Commonwealth Games, anchoring both 4 x 400m relay events.
He was recently inducted into the Australian Sports Hall of Fame and now keeps active by cycling recreationally, with a few competitions to keep himself honest.
Clinton now uses his drive and ambition in the business world with two hugely successful online specialist stores that he co-founded, www.winningarena.com.au and onandoffrunning.com.au offering a massive range of high performance footwear, apparel, sports nutrition/hydration and accessories.
In this insightful Q&A we explored goal setting, managing nerves and how he dealt with setbacks and obstacles that came up throughout his career as an athlete.
What is your first memory of watching the Olympics?
My first memory would have to be the lighting of the Olympic Torch at the opening ceremony of the 1992 Barcelona Olympic Games when archer, Antonio Rebollo, shot an arrow into the cauldron.
Do you remember a “breakthrough” moment in your running career when you realised you could make it to the Olympic Games?
Yes, at the 2001 East Asian Games in Japan, I managed to place 3rd in the 400m Final, running a massive 0.7sec personal best. This was my first Australian Team and gave me the confidence to launch from there.
Did you apply some goal setting strategies and if so how were they applied?
Yes, no matter what you are doing you have to set yourself some goals. Importantly though they need to be realistic and you need to be able to continue to review them and adjust as required. I had a 4 year strategy, obviously between Olympic Games, then each season/year was broken down and goals were set accordingly.
Can you give us a small insight into what it actually takes to make it to the Olympics?
That in itself is a book! But to keep it short….. Practice, dedication, sacrifice, talent, desire, passion and short-term memory loss to forget how hard each session is when 110% committed.
Were you supported as an athlete, or did you need to manage work/study commitments?
Fortunately for me following on from the 2004 Athens Olympic Games and my Silver Medal I was able to sustain life as a fulltime athlete. However that is not the norm as most of the Australian athletes have to juggle work/study commitments.
How did you manage the nerves of an Olympic final? Many of our athletes get nervous before race day, do you have any ideas or techniques to manage this?
To be honest the nerves for an Olympic final are no different to that of a local interclub race for me. There is only so many nerves you can get before a race and for me I treated each race equally. Then when the time comes on the big stage you don’t over think or stress and are able to execute to the best of your ability as you have done so many times before.
Are there any parallels in the business world to the athletics world that you can see?
So many comparisons. The only difference one is done in Lycra and the other in a suit. I don’t see a difference here only the scenery changes.
How have you applied some of the skills you learnt as an athlete in your now successful business life?
Absolutely!! If you apply the same levels of commitment, dedication and passion then you have a solid platform from which to succeed post sporting career. I believe that the work ethic of a large majority of athletes is geared for business success. If you look at the top athletes around the world, most of them are self-driven, can self-assess, have a determined and focused approach to training and competition, are willing to go above and beyond and commit 110% to their endeavours. The list goes on. So if you apply the same to a normal ‘work’ environment then yes you will succeed.
Did you have a mantra or motivational quote that you would use in races?
Yes I do! I still use this self-motivational quote when needed today. “…pain is only temporary….” Being a 400m athlete the toughest challenge before any race was a mental one and not necessarily who you are racing and the enormity of say an Olympic Games. It was….. “when the gun goes off am I ready to cope with the physical pain that will come in less than 30sec”. If I could master this fear then I could execute to 100% of my ability and that of my training. Without being able to accept this and deal with it meant I would not put myself in the hurt locker or give myself the chance to succeed.
In your career as an athlete, you must have had obstacles and setbacks, how did you deal with those?
Yes, every athlete does. If you think you can make it to an elite level without setbacks then you are misinformed. I think the biggest challenge is to learn from these obstacles and setbacks and then do what you can to avoid the same from happening again. It is ok to have setbacks as this makes you stronger and tougher. It also makes you really appreciate the successes too because they don’t come without a lot of hard work, effort and sacrifice.
What are your thoughts on training mental toughness? Do you think mental toughness can be taught?
Yes, mental toughness is a must have in order to be great! Period. Everyone in an Olympic Final has the ability to win otherwise they would not be there. But more than often the results are pre-determined mentally by an athlete. Believe you can win and then you give yourself the chance to win. If you doubt yourself then you will never win. Mental toughness can be taught to a certain level. But I think it takes something from within to give you the edge.
What is your best advice for those wishing to achieve a P.B? And what advice do you have for young Australians who want to make it to the Olympics one day?
The best way to achieve a PB is a mixture of the following. Train hard but smart, stay injury free, believe in yourself and most importantly enjoy what you do. If you are not having fun then what is the point? To make it to an Olympics takes a lot of practice and years of training. But, if you really want to represent your country at the greatest sporting event on the planet then never give up. When times get hard, find a way to push through. Learn from your mistakes and use them as motivation. Celebrate your victories but don’t reminisce for too long as someone will replace you. There will be plenty of time to reflect post career. Set yourself goals and keep honest about them. The sky is the limit if you dare to believe.