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Passion and belief

James Cracknell is a double Olympic gold medallist, having topped the field in the coxless fours at both Sydney and Athens.

Cracknell tells BBC Sport Academy about the mental toughness and the rigorous training required to beat the world's best.

James Cracknell
By James Cracknell
Double Olympic rowing gold medallist

We won Olympic gold in Athens by just eight-hundredths of a second, which shows how crucial training can be.

The difference between success or failure is so minimal, just one missed day in training can account for whether you win gold or silver.

So when it comes to training, you just have to bear that in mind every single day - that's the only incentive you need.

The other major boost in training is thinking about the other guys in the boat. Those people are relying on you and their dreams are on the line, as well as your own.

James Cracknell and the gold medal winning Olympic rowing team
Cracknell (second from right) was driven by the fear of letting down his team-mates

Just the thought of their faces is incentive enough.

When it comes to training and competing, a lot of people talk about mental toughness and want to know what it takes to be strong enough to win Olympic gold.

But to me that's nonsense - I don't really think I'm all that mentally tough.

The best example of that was when I did a training day with these SAS guys. Doing that I realised I'm nothing mentally to them.

I know that if I was tortured I'd squeal like a girl and tell them everything - and more - within 20 seconds.

That said, you can learn to have a degree of mental strength, and that can come from something as simple as the passion you have for what you're doing.

If you believe utterly and completely in what you're doing, you give it your all... and that means mentally as well.

But you shouldn't just dwell solely on mental strength. Some who seem mentally tough aren't in reality.

Take school bullies for example, they charge about being all tough but they're just pretending to be.

Whether it's the mental side of things, or the physical side, training is hard work and every so often it just gets too much.

I remember when I was in a pair with Tim Foster I just totally spat the dummy and had a - how shall I put it? - "flowery outburst".

He just turned round to me and gave me one of those 'grow up' looks. In a second it took the wind out of my sails and the toys were back in the pram.

But training is the absolute key to success, don't forget that, and it'll all come into play even when a race gets to its toughest.

By that, I mean the moment when you've pushed yourself to the limit, you're lacking oxygen, everything gets a bit hazy and then things just seem to go black.

You think back to your training, you count your strokes out and just focus on everything you've learned from training.

Do that and everything else slots into place.



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