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The secret to the success of the GB Cycling Team

Posted on 21/02/2012
Dr Steve Peters with the Principal Prof Paul Layzell and Prof Mary Fowler, Dean of Science.

(L to R) The Principal Prof Paul Layzell, Prof Mary Fowler, Dean of Sciences, Dr Steve Peters,and Prof Philip Beesley, VP (Research).

Dr Steve Peters has been described as the secret weapon of the GB Cycling team and credited for the phenomenal success of the team at the Beijing Olympics. During a special lecture at Royal Holloway, University of London the Consultant Psychiatrist, although modestly dismissing that he is responsible for the hoard of medals the cyclists returned with, reveals just how he trains the athletes mentally to ensure they stay at the top of their game.

Although pushed to explain the workings of the human mind in a one hour lecture, Dr Peters explained that just as athletes spend hours training to reach peak physical fitness they also needed to train their mind to ensure that they can cope with any adversities such as injuries or failing to beat their personal best at every race.

He has an ability to explain the complex workings of the brain in layman’s terms opting for terms such as an inner chimp, which is responsible for the instinctive emotional response that following an outburst we later come to regret, and gremlins, which are programmed into our minds from an early age and are responsible for our negative beliefs and self-doubt.

“We have a choice about which part of the brain we choose to use,” he explains. “Sport is fast and furious and can’t work if you are thinking. So you can remove your gremlins but you must replace them with autopilot responses that are constructive.”

The engaging talk was littered with anecdotes and references to the top sporting stars he works with, from British cyclists Chris Hoy and Victoria Pendleton to world snooker champion Ronnie O’Sullivan and Taekwondo world champion Sarah Stevenson.   

Looking ahead to the 2012 Games, Dr Peters reveals that the GB cycling team is “in a good place”. “The reason cyclists succeed is because we work as a team,” he said. “You have to look after your team mates emotionally and at the moment you can really feel everyone coming together.”

Dr Peters will be working behind the scenes with the GB cycling team to prepare them to compete on home turf during the London 2012 Olympics.


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