Understand that it happens to everyone
I think that anyone who has found success in their field has dealt with a significant failure at some point. I was unaware, careless and, in some ways, gullible before I faced my first real failure, and that moment was definitely the biggest lesson of my cycling career.
Going to the Olympics as a 21-year-old, soaking up all the positivity and encouragement from people around me—I thought I was invincible. I was mentally strong and confident, yet I didn’t realise it was all on a very shallow surface level. Then, only a couple of days before the race, I started to feel this heaviness on my chest that made me want to disappear, hide and escape. I now understand that it was pressure and the fact that people’s expectations were hanging medals on my neck before the race even started.
Nobody had prepared me for that. I had no tools to help me get out of this mental state. In the end, I gave up before the start. My head didn’t want to be there anymore. I felt this immense guilt that came with the fear of not satisfying others’ needs. I was so lost. I faced something I could not even understand or explain for the first time in my life.
Be patient and work to find your own way out of the darkness
It took time to work my way out of that, too. Learning how to deal with pressure and failure is a personal process, and everyone goes through it at their own speed. It took me years to come to terms with it and understand how to turn failure into something that motivates me for upcoming races and training sessions.
I remember feeling alone, not understood, lost, and guilty after not achieving my goals. Back then, I just tried to move on without recognising my feelings and simply suppressing them. Eventually, I had let off some steam by venting to my close ones. Once I put my feelings in words, everything became easier. I could get help from others and allow myself to listen and be softer on myself. Knowing that I was not alone made me feel so much more secure.
Don’t shy away from hard feelings
I genuinely believe this is the most crucial thing after facing a failure—to be honest with yourself and try to understand where it is coming from and how you can deal with it next time. This includes thinking about what can you change and what other perspectives you can bring into a situation.
Sometimes it is OK to feel sad, angry or disappointed. It is better not to let the negative feelings build up inside you. It’s expected that as human beings, we question what we do in our lives. I learnt that the best thing I can do is take some time for myself to process my emotions healthily. Sometimes it is as simple as recognising, acknowledging, accepting and refocusing on the next goal.
Remember to be open to the success of others
It is also important not to focus exclusively on your own success. I get inspired by people around me all the time! I love being surrounded by individuals that strive to be the best. Success is a combination of devotion, hard work, visualisation, trust in the preparation process, faith and a tremendous amount of luck. Once all the factors align, that’s the moment when the magic happens.
Be mindful that everything happens for a reason, and your time will come
Every failure ends up for the best as long as you stand up and continue doing what you are passionate about. This is the growing process, and it means that you care. If everything came easy, it would get boring.
By analysing what went wrong and learning from it, you can visualise moments where you reacted in a certain way and change them. Allowing yourself to receive criticism without taking it personally but being confident in yourself and knowing that you can only improve helps a lot.
Don’t be afraid to lean on those who love you
Without my support network, I would not be where I am right now. Family, friends, and partners play such a massive role in every athlete’s wellbeing! Nobody can understand you better than somebody who loves you and cares about you. There are things you simply cannot express within a team environment as you need to be very aware of the type of energy you spread. So being able to vent to somebody who is removed from cycling and somebody who shares a different perspective allows you to see things more clearly and come back with a refreshed mindset and commitment.