HomeSmart LivingOn your marks, get set, gold!

On your marks, get set, gold!

Back at the South African National Championships (SANCs), Under Armour phenom Tatjana Smith (née Schoenmaker) sounded the warning bell to her Olympic rivals. Blowing her competition away in a time of 2:19.92, her performance in the 200m breaststroke was her fourth quickest time over that distance ever. With Paris 2024 less than a month away, her performance at the SANCs is just a glimpse into what the record-breaking swimmer can achieve in her quest for more Olympic gold.

For athletes like Smith, there is no luck, only the moment where preparation meets opportunity. This year, as she reaches for the opportunity to bag more gold medals, the Under Armour athlete will once again rely on the preparation that got her there.

“My expectations are the same as last time. I’m preparing the best that I can so that I can fight on race day,” she explained. According to Smith, the key is to get your cycles right. There are a lot of adjustments to make between Olympics, and peaking at the wrong time can cost medals. Smith explained, “Swimming is a very technical sport, so the focus is on tweaking the things that matter. When you can be your best at the right times by doing what you know best, you get your best results”.

Getting into the right gear is a crucial part of being your best. Making it to one of the biggest events in a sport needs focus and attention to detail. Something as simple as footwear can have huge repercussions. Being in the right trainer when walking the long distances in the Olympic village can be the difference between aching legs and limbs poised for performance.

“I love having my Under Armour gear when I am in and around the village. It keeps me comfortable and helps maintain my conditioning. People don’t often realise how far we walk in the Olympic villages and, if you have bad gear, that can create unnecessary little niggles.”

Training for the Olympics is a marathon, not a sprint. Even when you’ve made it to the world’s biggest stage, the work doesn’t stop, it just gets more focused. During the Games, the mileage comes down, but the intensity stays high. Rest and in-race performance become the centre of attention.

“Sometimes we try and push through when our bodies tell us to stop, thinking it will help us, but in truth, it is really hindering us. I’ve found that you have to listen to your body if you want to compete. So, if we need to take a rest day, we do. Often that is more beneficial than pushing through and risking burnout.”

For years, Tatjana Smith has mixed relentless preparation with the right mindset and elite gear. In a month’s time, her Olympic journey will crescendo again, and when it does, a whole nation will hope Under Armour’s star athlete will come out the other side with gold around her neck.