Olympic athlete: Mental strength is key to success

By adding together passion, vision and action, any person can achieve exceptional human performance, says Marilyn King, an Olympic pentathlon competitor-turned motivational speaker who's giving talks this week in the Rogue Valley.

When King was training for the 1980 Olympics, she injured her back in a car accident. She had to forgo her normal six- to eight-hour daily training schedule, instead resorting to bench press and pool exercises.

Determined to succeed regardless, King mentally envisioned herself competing in the pentathlon. She saw herself jumping hurdles, throwing the shot put, competing in high jump and long jump, and running the 800-meter dash.

"I watched hundreds of hours of video of Olympic pentathletes," said King, who thought she would recover and still have time to train.

"I'd go out on the track and envision what I would have done training-wise," she said.

King wasn't able to fully recover before the Olympic trials and was only able to walk the course, but she chose to compete after receiving an injection to temporarily numb her pain.

She won second place in the trials.

King believes she was exercising the areas of her brain that completed the physical actions, keeping herself sharp and able to compete.

King chose not to return to her job teaching track at the University of California, Berkeley, but instead to focus on learning more about these mental exercises.

"I realized something extraordinary had happened, and this was more important than teaching," King said.

Founder of Beyond Sports, King has given workshops and speeches to business professionals, athletes and students. Her current project is called "Training for 2012" and focuses on preparing for the future, whether you're an Olympic athlete, a business person, or even a child.

She will give a series of talks in Medford, Ashland and Grants Pass this week.

"If you think about the Olympic athletes training for 2012, they have a crystal clear image of what they are going for every day," King said. "How many of us have that level of clarity within ourself?"

David Wick, vice president of Ashland organization Silverlight International, helped organized King's trip to the area.

"There's going to be a lot of resonance," said Wick. "What she brings is not only inspiring, but practical."

Wick described the "Training for 2012" program as something that focuses on larger pictures and huge unknowns.

"How do we individually and collectively train for what's coming?" Wick said.

King will speak Thursday and Saturday at Hidden Springs Wellness Center in Ashland, where Coach Will Wilkinson said he'd heard about King from three people in the same week.

"When someone has done something, there's a lot more respect than someone who just talks about it," Wilkinson said. "She is an Olympian."

In addition to Hidden Springs, King has events planned Tuesday through Friday at Rogue Community College in Medford and Grants Pass, Kids Unlimited in Medford, and the Rogue Valley Unitarian Universalist Fellowship in Ashland.

Reach Southern Oregon University intern Teresa Ristow at teresa.ristow@gmail.com.

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