To keep raising the bar

Published on February 11th, 2021

The US Team has selected all its athletes for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics except in the Women’s Two Person Dinghy where three teams are vying for the entry. The final event to decide their fate is the 2021 470 World Championship on March 5-13 in Vilamoura, Portugal.

From this event, each team’s result is added to their current score to select the Tokyo representative. One team advances, the other two go home.

One of the teams in the hunt is Nikki Barnes and Lara Dallman-Weiss, and in this report by Lara, she reflects on the process toward excellence:

“There are no limits. There are plateaus, but you must not stay there, you must go beyond them. If it kills you, it kills you” – Bruce Lee

My mom recently emailed me something that really resonated with my Olympic campaign; she’s always learning something new especially if it has to do with the mind and this time it was about the OK plateau.

The basic principle is there are three stages of learning something new: cognitive, associative, and autonomous. Each stage requires different parts of the brain and once the final stage has been reached, the skill has been required and becomes automatic so people tend to plateau.

What does it take to go beyond, to become an expert? It takes something that I have been living for the past nearly three years: deliberate practice.

It takes me leaving the comforts of the autonomous phase and is actually why often I come in from a long day of sailing with a brain that feels completely overused, it’s because in order to become better and better I need to keep reentering the cognitive phase. We achieve this with goal setting, immediate and constant feedback, and technique.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the evolution of my kite trimming and how with each regatta and training camp, I gain a little more knowledge. Each time I find myself thinking, “Great, I can finally live in my flow state and just feel the demands of the kite.”

But I learn something new from coach, observe something in another team, or watch video of myself and come up with new possibilities that start the whole three phase process over. It seems never ending but I now understand that all of this inhibits me from settling, this is what keeps raising my bar!

Editor’s note: We have massive empathy for these three teams which had to extend their campaign an additional year to complete qualifiers. Barnes and Dallman-Weiss have launched a GoFundMe fundraising effort to cover the additional costs. If you can help them, click here.

Tokyo Olympic Sailing Program
Men’s One Person Dinghy – Laser
Women’s One Person Dinghy – Laser Radial
Men’s Two Person Dinghy – 470
Women’s Two Person Dinghy – 470
Men’s Skiff – 49er
Women’s Skiff – 49erFx
Men’s One Person Dinghy Heavy – Finn
Men’s Windsurfing – RS:X
Women’s Windsurfing – RS:X
Mixed Multihull – Nacra 17

Original dates: July 24 to August 9, 2020
Revised dates: July 23 to August 8, 2021

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