In 2020, I had the pleasure of interviewing local Olympian Aifric Keogh. Aifric had just competed in the women’s coxless four event at the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo and won a bronze medal. The following year, along with her team-mates, she was named as the Irish Times/Sport Ireland Sportswoman for July 2021

Don’t dream – Do!

Aifric’s journey wasn’t typical of what I had imagined. At first, I expected that her victory was the culmination of chasing a dream – one which she had imprinted into her psyche from a young age.

I had read that script and told that type of story from the stage as a motivational speaker for the previous few decades!

I was wrong, From the get-go, the Olympics never cropped up in her mind.

“The Olympics to me was something unattainable – it never entered my consciousness. Even indeed when people were telling me I had a talent for it – it didn’t register. I never believed it or had any interest.Indeed, as we only qualified 60 days before the Olympics, we never had time to focus on this. Even when we were in the airport waiting for the plane going to Tokyo a news bulletin suggested the games may not take part after all,” she shared.

Visualise failure.

In a wide-ranging interview Aifric shared the importance of embracing failure as a realistic option. Again, contradicting others, I have interviewed over the years, she argued that you need to not only visualise success, but you also need to visualise every possible outcome including failure.

It’s a long game with many up and downs. You need to go into it with a mindset that failure is as possible as success. For every success there are a lot more failures, so you need to embrace the latter. If I visualise a race, I visualise every possible outcome including failure – this gets me mentally prepared for the journey ahead.” she said.

Commit when no one is looking.

Aifric agreed with Ericsson’s deliberate practice model that it takes 10,000 hours to become an expert in your craft humbly adding that it took her longer than that.

“Your mentality must be to work when no one is looking. You need to work for yourself. not just your coaches. I remember the three-month lockdown where communication was via zoom. It was hard to keep going.  I know some people wouldn’t do it, but I couldn’t do that. I had to do it. You must be accountable for yourself. It requires a lot of sacrifice where you effectively put your life on hold.

I asked her to share advice for local children who dream to be the next Aifric Keogh.

  1. Be the best version of you. I am the best at long distance – I know I haven’t what it takes to be good at short distances. Focus on being better than yourself.
  2. Enjoy what you do. A happy rower is a fast rower = that’s what they say. Yes, there will be moments when things aren’t as good as you would like. Take time to find out why – talk to your coach. Maybe it’s time to move on or maybe like me that conversation will rekindle your love for the sport.
  3. Relax – everyone gets nervous before a race or a match. The people you are afraid of are just as nervous as you. Don’t let this stand in the way of your enjoyment and performance.