THE mental strength of our top sportsmen and women never fails to amaze me.
For most of us, playing sport is about enjoyment, keeping fit and having a laugh.
Our elite athletes, however, have a totally different approach and, because their physical condition is basically top notch, it’s all about what’s between their ears.
This is not only what allows them to reproduce their best, time after time on their particular field of play, but what also drives them through their training.
What got me thinking about this was reading an article about Sir Bradley Wiggins, where he was talking about being injured and having to withdraw from the Tour de France because he couldn’t get to ‘where he needed to be’ in terms of physical and mental condition to take part.
Turning up is clearly just the tip of the iceberg for people at the very top of their game – it’s the hours and hours of training which are put in and the physical and mental demands of that which few people take account of.
It got me thinking about Justin Rose who, after years of trying, was finally able to make that mental step and get over the winning line in the US Open golf.
It was his first major victory and the tournament probably suited him because it was an absolute grind. He was able to put his head down and just battle away, rather than having to fire birdie after birdie, left, right and centre.
Andy Murray probably has a better chance of winning Wimbledon this year than at any other time – and not just because Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal are already out.
The World No2 has that mental sureness of knowing he is now a major champion following his win in New York last year, and the lift he got from winning that Olympic gold medal on Centre Court at Wimbledon cannot be underestimated either.
I think he now genuinely believes he can win majors and that he can become Wimbledon champion.
Kevin Pietersen is another who seems to be able to put all other issues to one side and still produce his best under the most severe of spotlights.
He has been out for months through injury, the Ashes are just around the corner and he picks up a bat for Surrey and simply purrs to 170 – when the whole world is wondering how he is going to do.
As I’ve said, it never ceases to amaze me how powerful people like Pietersen are mentally, and it just emphasises what is needed to compete successfully for a prolonged period at the top level.