Jumping the hurdles

Taking lessons from Olympians can help us, even if our lives are, at first glance, completely different to theirs

Getty/Feodora Chiosea

One moment that almost flew under the radar in Britain’s Olympics coverage was Canadian swimmer Maggie Mac Neil not being able to see the scoreboard that would tell her she’d won gold in the 100-metre butterfly. 

Why couldn’t Maggie see the scoreboard? Because she doesn’t, as a rule, wear either prescription goggles or contact lenses when she’s swimming.

Clearly, this choice hasn’t affected her performance – even if it might have taken her a few extra seconds to realise how successful that performance actually was.

This incident, and the full two seconds it took before Maggie realised that she was victorious, got me thinking about how we can’t always see our successes, even if they’re right in front of us (especially when it sometimes seems more natural to focus on negativity).

With that in mind, I had a scour through the recent news pages of OT for some stories of success – and of course, there were plenty. From members of the public setting out on their own fundraising challenges on behalf of Vision Aid Overseas to companies winning social impact prizes and the scientists working on technology that will improve the quality of life of patients with advanced age-related macular degeneration, there are success stories everywhere. All we have to do is take a step back and look for them.

Often we need to be patient, too – something that we’ve all learnt in the past 18 months, as rules have changed and lockdowns have been reinstated and evening COVID-19 briefings have said either absolutely nothing, or far too much.

And here is another lesson we can take from the Olympians. After all, it took Tom Daley four Olympics to get his gold medal, and he did it this year – which should really remind us that anything is possible (especially if you take your downtime to do something crafty or soul-enriching, like knitting). 

In optics, there is no short route to success either: our next edition (landing 7 August) is centred on independent prescribing (IP), which, much like training for any kind of sporting competition, often feels like an uphill struggle. As is made clear time and time again, though, it might be a long game, but the benefits for your practice, your patients and yourself (as well as for the future of the sector) are very real. Read more about why that’s the case in our interview with Northumberland-based IP Peter Frampton here.

There’s the mental health conversation too, which has been prominent so far at Tokyo 2020. Simone Biles, Adam Peaty and Naomi Osaka have all publicly prioritised their mental health, leading to vital conversations about how you can never (literally, never) be at the top of your game if your head isn’t in it. In a medical setting, often requiring precision, concentration and the ability to focus on what patients are telling you, I’d argue that this is equally as important.

This month, maybe we all need to take a lesson from the Olympians that are currently gracing our screens, and think about how we can incorporate what they’ve taught us into our own daily lives – however different they might be.