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GAP: The Importance of Respecting Oneself as an Athlete
16 March 2010
Taekwondo athlete Tina Tanrikulu gladly took the journey out to Brigadoon to participate in the Advanced GAP workshop with a group of Equestrian athletes that are part of Equestrian WA's High Performance development squad.  Below the picture of the happy group, Tina relates some of her experiences from the day.
The day's gang - Equestrian WA athletes, and GAP facilitators
I travelled out to the State Equestrian Centre February 20th to talk with identified gifted athletes from 14 to 18 years of age. First of all, I’d love to say what an amazing centre they have out in Brigadoon! It was certainly very inviting and the inside arena is fantastic – just seeing the venue made me want to get on a horse and learn to ride myself then and there!! But I will obviously have to save that experience for another day as I was there to share with these inspiring young athletes, tips and skills that I have learnt throughout my own sporting career. It was a great day overall and I felt the athletes definitely took something away from this session that they could use in the future.
The athletes took a keen interest in our nutrition and healthy body sessions. They learned about things such as how to prepare meal plans, read nutrition labels and the importance of athlete recovery. It was interesting at first to hear their views on themselves as sportspersons, as it seems that rather too often equestrian athletes do not regard themselves as real athletes. Their previously instilled culture believes that the horse is the athlete and the equestrian is merely a rider. As an elite athlete myself I see this being far from the truth. One comment I remember clearly was "It’s not an individual sport when you think of it deep down. You’re in a team and you have to work with your horse.” So keeping this in mind, it makes sense that it’s just as important to put the right fuel into your own bodies as your horse’s. After-all, you want to perform at the best level you can and that means having yourself and your horse in tip top condition – hydrated, fuelled and mentally ready. These young athletes obviously face a challenge to improve the athlete culture within the sport of Equestrian, however I can already see that these individuals they have the drive to do this, and the passion to better themselves within their sport.
I learned a lot from this session about Equestrian itself and about the hardships these athletes go through. I find it hard enough trying to become the best athlete I can be, let alone these sportspersons also having to work with their horses and make it all come together. As we discussed during the day, self-awareness, knowing your strengths and how to work them to your advantage is really important as a sportsperson. Most athletes mentioned mental advantages over physical ones, but whatever it may be - always remember to focus, as this minimises those self doubt thoughts that creep into your mind when things start to get tough.
Everyone has the ability to succeed. You just have to believe in your skills and your training ‘bank’ for things to happen.
Tina Tanrikulu
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