In sports, mental strength is just as important as physical ability.
No matter how much effort you put in, if you’re nervous, you won’t be able to perform at your best.
Athletes who have practiced a sport to the national level have their own ways of dealing with nerves.
These unique behaviors are called “routines”. It’s a systematic way to keep your body and mind in a constant state of mind.
Athletes who are desperate to win or perform well sometimes resort to “superstitions” to achieve psychological relief. This is jinxing.
The Korean Sports Federation recently released information on the preparations and hobbies of 166 of the 1,140 athletes representing the Hangzhou Asian Games in a data book. Here are 15 of the most unusual routines and jinxes.
Korean men’s archery standout Kim Woo-jin (Cheongju City) is known for his dislike of the number four.
So much so that he avoids using the number 4 himself before competing.
He doesn’t even roll his rice in soup because it has the nuance of ‘rolling’. He also doesn’t eat bread because he once ate bread before a game and shot a zero.
Lee, who represents kurashi, the national martial art of Uzbekistan, also tries to avoid the number four at all costs. She has developed a routine of taking seven deep breaths just before a competition.
Men’s road cycling powerhouse Zhang Kyung-koo (Voith Guncheong) doesn’t shave until a day before a race.
National rugby team member Lee Jin-gyu (Hyundai Globis), on the other hand, always shaves. He’s been known to perform better when his beard is trimmed.
There are also some athletes who emphasize the left-right order. Lee Ri-young (Busan Swimming Federation), a medalist in the artistic swimming duet category, puts her lenses on from the left.
Ulsan Hyundai FC winger Uhm Won-sang, who leads the K League 1 in professional soccer, also has to put his socks on from the left side.
Lee Jae-Ik of Seoul Eland FC, who will be playing alongside Uhm, is a little more subtle.
“When I enter the stadium, I try not to step on the line if possible, but if I lose the game, I step on the line in the next game,” said Lee Jae-ik.
Kim Eun-ji of the women’s national hockey team listens to “Whitebeard Whale” by YB (Yoon Do-hyun’s band) on the bus ride to the stadium.
The lyrics seem to say, “Don’t worry, you’re not alone, you have your teammates with you,” she says.
Some athletes even have specific routines that are timed.
“I take a half-body bath for 30 minutes before I compete,” says taekwondo poomsae athlete Kang Wan-jin (Hongcheon-gun), who is going for gold. “I also go to bed (at night) at 12:30-1 a.m. and wake up at 6-6:30 a.m. Before that, I try not to sleep even if I’m tired.”
“I don’t trim my nails or cut my hair a week before the race, and I always leave my hostel an hour and a half before the race,” said Kim Ji-hwan (Jeonbuk Sports Association).
For some, it’s all about the outfit.
Kim Dain (Hyundai E&C), a member of the women’s volleyball team, said she only wears the same type of athletic protective gear and underwear that she has worn in previous competitions.
Park Ha-joon (KT), who competes in the 10-meter air rifle event, said, “I have a routine of wearing the same underwear I wore in a match where I had a good result.”
National badminton team member Kim Won-ho (Samsung Life) gave a straightforward answer, showing the essence of his routine as a “ritual” to strengthen his resolve.
“Before a match, I warm up by listening to my favorite songs,” he said, “and I think to myself, ‘If I can’t defeat my opponent, I will die.
Lee Yong-hyun (Chungnam Sports Association), who won a silver medal in wushu toro at the 2014 Asian Games in Incheon, also had an impressive answer.
“I had a lot of jinxes, but they all went away. My routine is to think about my maternal grandmother the evening before the competition while looking at the moon or stars.”
Hwang Sun-woo (swimming, Gangwon Provincial Office) and Woo Sang-hyuk (track and field, Yongin City Hall), both world-class performers in their respective sports, did not reveal any special routines or jinxes.
Hwang Sun-woo and Woo Sang-hyuk, who do not have routines or jinxes, said, “I clear my mind before competing,” and “I repeat good thoughts and the words ‘I can do it,'” respectively.
Ahn Se-young (Samsung Life Insurance), the world No. 1 in women’s singles badminton, said her only routine is to organize her shoelaces so they don’t get tangled.
“I go to bed at 11 p.m. (the night before) and meditate. I try not to think about anything before the game starts,” she said. 슬롯