13 Rituals & Superstitions Of Olympic Athletes That Help Rio's Competitors Stay Focused
Competitive athletes will look for any small advantage they can gain over their competitors — because sometimes, that fraction of a second or point can make all the difference in the world. Some rely on little rituals or superstitions to get them ready for a game; and we have good news from psychologists: It looks like those rituals Olympic athletes have before competing actually can make a positive difference in terms of their performance.
Speaking recently with Quartz, psychologist Stuart Vyse explained, "These rituals are a way of fending off anxiety and creating a mantra-like focus prior to the performance." He also explained that it helps give athletes a sense of control — albeit, a false one. "Even though this ritual can’t possibly directly affect what’s going on, it gives the person a sense that they have a bit more control over the outcome than they would otherwise have," said Vyse. "That’s an attractive thing."
This placebo effect has proven to be a friend to athletes, many of whom swear by their own superstitions. You wouldn't think that an athlete of such a high calibre would care about what socks they're wearing or what order they put their clothes on in — but they do.
Here are a few of the superstitious habits of some of the most successful athletes in sports.
1. Flipping Your Pops The Birdie
Canadian Olympic swimmer Santo Condorelli gives his dad the finger before every race. (No, he is not doing it to the audience.) The ritual started when Condorelli was just eight years old, as a way to forget everyone else. He gives his dad the finger, and his dad returns. Aw.
2. Wearing Really Dirty Laundry
Tennis star Serena Williams has a whole list of superstitions and rituals — one of which includes wearing the same socks through a tournament without washing them. You do you, Serena.
3. Right Glove First
Luge athlete Erin Hamlin has to put her right glove on first, according to Refinery29. Obviously. You put the left one on first and chaos ensues.
4. Put Your Hands Together
Swimmer Elizabeth Beisel, who won the silver medal for the 400-meter individual medley, claps her hands three times the prevent bad things from happening.
5. Arm Circles And Good Music
Olympic swimmer extraordinaire Michael Phelps reportedly swings his arms in circles exactly three times while listening to the likes of Eminem and Young Jeezy. Right on.
6. Don't Touch My Water Bottles
Tennis player Rafael Nadal supposedly takes a freezing cold shower right before a match, and has a particular way he likes to place his water bottles on the court.
7. Words of Encouragement
Before getting into the pool, swimmer Dana Vollmer picks one inspirational word and writes in on her foot, so it's the last thing she sees. She's sometimes written her son's name, Arlen.
8. The Most Elaborate Ritual Ever
Australian swimmer Stephanie Rice must have to pencil in time for her pre-game superstitions, because there are a few: Eight arm swings, splashing herself with water four times, and standing on the block and pressing her goggle onto her face four times. That could be an Olympic event all on its own.
9. The Lucky Bra
Lucky bra? Where can I get one?! Olympic cyclist Evelyn Stevens was gifted a blue sports bra from her sister, and subsequently experienced a winning streak. Now, that bra is her best friend.
10. Spinning Around And Around
Field hockey player Alex Danson must spin her hockey stick 15 times before she plays a game.
11. Going Commando
Andre Agassi is a celebrity in the tennis world, but it's not just his athletic skills that have helped him make headlines. He spent most of his career playing without underwear because after forgetting a pair one day, he started a winning streak.
12. Wardrobe Repeats
U.S. Olympic weightlifter Morghan King wears the same underwear and pair of socks from when she first began competing. Hopefully they've been washed since then.
13. Someone Who Actually Enjoys Wet Socks
Cyclist Laura Trott has two unique rituals: She rides in damp socks (OMG, no), and she steps on a wet towel before every race. I'm so uncomfortable right now.