‘It’s not only about achieving the goal, it’s about the person you become on the way to achieving that goal.’ Joseph Polossifakis – Olympic athletes interviewed 48
Joseph Polossifakis, Olympian 2016 outlines how he struggled at the beginning of his career, when he attached his identity to his sporting results, how he learned to enjoy and appreciate the journey, and the struggle to qualify for the Olympic Games.
Furthermore, we discuss
- The different disciplines of fencing and how they differ from each other
- His darkest moment
- His best moment
- His advice to a younger Joseph Polossifakis
- His success habits
- His morning routine
- How to prepare for important moments
- How to overcome setbacks
- His role model
- The best advice he received
- A typical day in the life of a professional fencer
- His interview nomination
- His motivation to start ‘The Olympians Podium’ podcast
- Where can people find Joseph Polossifakis
Christian: Today I’m joined by Joseph Polossifakis. Joseph is a 2016 Olympian, representing Canada in the fencing discipline, sabre. The biggest achievements in his career so far are multiple medals at the Pan Am Games, the highest-ever world ranking for a Canadian fencer and ranked number one in Canada for five years in a row,.
Joseph is also a podcast host, which we will speak about later.
Joseph: Thank you for having me, Christian.
The different disciplines of fencing and how they differ from each other
Christian: Joseph, can you quickly take us through the different disciplines of fencing and how they differ from each other?
Joseph: Yes, fencing has three weapons. Not too many people know that, but they are completely different one from the other. I do the one called the sabre and the other two are called the epee and the foil.
How they differ? Pretty much in everything, the weapon, the way it’s made, the way it works and the equipment is different. The rules are also different. So, we can do a whole other podcast on all the separate things.
The most important thing to know is, that it’s like three different weapons that are like different sports. I’ve never done the other two. I do mainly sabre and the main difference with sabre and the other one is, that it’s a blade that you hold upwards and not pointing directly at your opponent.
You slash with the outside part of the blade. You don’t have to hit just with a tip, with a point, and the only valid target is from the torso up. So, everything above the waist is valid, but nothing in the legs or the feet counts.
The point system is more complex than the other two, meaning the only way you could get a point is, if you are deemed to have the attack priority. That is if you’re advancing and your opponent’s going back and you touch at the same time, it’s the person advancing who gets the point.
So, it’s all about trying to get that attack and on defense trying to make the guy miss his attack and try to take your attack over. But obviously, we don’t start by having the attack in defense. You have to try and wrestle it away from your opponent with tactics and tricks and tempo and distance. So, that’s a very interesting sport that’s always a challenge.
It’s all about trying to get that attack and on defense trying to make the guy miss his attack and try to take your attack over.
Check out the short additional explainer video from Vox with pretty impressive footage
Christian: So if I understand you correctly, there’s no one who does the two or three disciplines?
Joseph: No, it’s too specialized and complex. There are very different abilities that are required in the tactics. So, if you want to be good at one, it’s very hard to specialize in another one as well. So, I’ve never touched the other two weapons actually. I’ve never done them.
Christian: Also in Olympic history, is there anyone who did more than one?
Joseph: Maybe, in the beginning. I think in the beginning when there was less competition, it was easier to do three and play around with all of them. But it’s become way too competitive and specialized, so it’s very hard.
There is one girl on the international stage now. She’s one of the top fencers in the world for a weapon called foil and she’s trying to do sabre as well. She’s doing the competition, and she’s had some okay results, actually.
But I don’t know if it’s going to work out or not. But she’s the only one who’s ever attempted that and she’s trying to qualify as a two-weapon Olympian, which would be pretty interesting.
Christian: Okay, cool.
His darkest moment
Christian: In your life is as an athlete, what was your darkest moment?
Joseph: I had a concussion in 2014, right before the beginning of the Olympic qualifications, which made me lose all my funding. I couldn’t go outside. I couldn’t work out, I couldn’t sleep and I couldn’t be with friends in loud environments.
Everyone else at the same time, around the world, was training to get ready for the Olympic qualification. So, it was added stress for me and pressure. That was definitely one of the toughest times, because I was unable to do anything.
Everyone else at the same time, around the world, was training to get ready for the Olympic qualification, and I was unable to do anything.
That’s what was making me even more sad and anxious. I remember times when I would just be home all day just looking at a ceiling or walking around in the house and not knowing what the heck to do, because everything was an irritant. I couldn’t even watch TV.
Honestly, it was the worst time in my life. When I was able to come out of that and be able to miraculously make a comeback and get some good results to try and make Rio, that was a huge, huge success for me.
Christian: How long were you out?
Joseph: I got the concussion in 2014, I was out for around five to six months and then I started training for the Olympics. I still have some issues today, but I got over most of them.
But I had to do a lot of specialized training with specialists, three times a week. I returned to competition after that and I managed to qualify for the Rio 2016 Olympics.
I had to do a lot of specialized training with specialists, and I managed to qualify for the Rio 2016 Olympics.
Christian: What did you learn from that moment?
Joseph: I learned a lot, because when I came back from that concussion, I was able to finally just go back on the fencing strip and do my sport. I was so grateful and just happy to be back that even though the whole pressure of making the Olympics or if I would make it or not, didn’t even really matter to me as much anymore.
I was just happy to be able to do my activity and do what I love again. It sorts of removed a lot of pressure I put on myself. I learned how important it is to just enjoy the journey and be grateful for it, more than just trying to qualify for an Olympic Games.
I learned how important it is, to just enjoy the journey and be grateful for it.
In 2012 I tried to qualify and I was a hundred percent. I was training two times a day. We had a coach from Russia who was training us and I was very close to making it. I didn’t make it and I was devastated.
I felt like everything was useless and served nothing because I didn’t qualify. I attached my identity to qualifying for an Olympics and that crushed me. I learned from the second time around where I had all these issues and I managed to qualify afterwards with even having been sidelined for a long time, that it was really more about appreciating the journey and being grateful.
The consequences of just enjoying the moment really gave me a perspective to understand what it really means to go for something big. It’s not just about achieving it. It’s the person you become on the way to achieving that goal.
It’s not just about achieving it. It’s the person you become on the way to achieving that goal.
Christian: That’s really interesting. I would think it must be a balancing act, because as an athlete you have goals. You set goals you want to achieve, but on the other side you say you want to enjoy the journey. How did you do that?
Joseph: Yes, it’s very tough, because like I said, when you’re an athlete you’re always based on your goals and achievements. Obviously, I had to tell myself that if I don’t qualify for the Rio Olympics, I have to be okay with that, because at least I know I tried everything.
I think I would have been okay with it at a time, but maybe it’s still a disappointment if you don’t hit your goals. But because there are vicious goals, you can’t attach your identity to them because so few people make it. It’s so difficult that it shouldn’t undervalue everything you’ve done.
You actually become grown as a person trying to achieve that goal. That’s what we should take with us to other places of our life and that is going to help us. If you make it to the Olympics or you don’t make it to the Olympics, it’s because of a couple competitions that weren’t good or bad, but you put the same effort and you put the same work to become an Olympian.
You actually become grown as a person trying to achieve that goal. That’s what we should take with us to other places of our life and that is going to help us.
It doesn’t mean that you’re not really an Olympian, just because you had one or two bad days or a couple of bad results. You still are an Olympian in terms of going for that goal and doing everything that’s necessary, so you have to be okay with that.
I think with other goals, if you’re just chasing to make a million dollars, but you’re not enjoying the process, I think getting a million dollars would be good, but you won’t be as happier for food. You always try to get something else and to fill that void. You have to be okay with the journey on the way to it.
His best moment
Christian: What was your best moment?
Joseph: My best moment was definitely being at the opening ceremonies of the Olympics. My family was there and everyone who had supported me during my concussion and my problems, all made the trip and were in the stadium with me.
Just coming out in that stadium, there was so many people around me from Team Canada when we came up that started crying because they themselves had so many issues getting there. Some people almost died and the amazing stories that I learned about, and just to be with those people and know my family’s in there, it was just a culmination of 15 years of work that we ended up being there.
It’s just something that once again proved to me how important it is to appreciate those around you and understand how much that support is important. Without them, I wouldn’t be able to be there anyway. So, just to live it with them at the same time was incredible and to live it with other athletes who had similar stories, it’s a unique place to be in the world and very hard to recreate anywhere else.
It proved to me, how important it is, to appreciate those around you, and understand how much that support is important. Without them, I wouldn’t be able to be there.
Christian: I believe that.
His advice to a younger Joseph Polossifakis
Christian: If you could go back in time 10-15 years, what advice would you give your younger you?
Joseph: I would say to be patient. Don’t try to rush things, because like I said it’s a long journey. Sometimes when I was younger, I wouldn’t get a result I wanted and it would get me upset and I almost quit fencing early on at 16-17, because I hadn’t qualified for a Junior World Championships.
Be patient. Don’t try to rush things. It’s a long journey.
I remember I had an injury at the time and I asked myself why I was doing this. But there was something in the back of my head that kept telling me to keep going and that I could do it. But at the time it was hard to always understand it, because I was trying to get results quickly. Sometimes I had a good year, I’d get good results, and the next year I have bad results and I wouldn’t understand what the heck was going on.
It takes a lot of time to get good at things and to gain experience, especially in fencing, because every opponent’s different. You have to learn how to deal with the psychological ups and downs of a combat sport. So, it’s very important to be patient. In our time, in our days now, it’s getting harder and harder.
It takes a lot of time to get good at things and to gain experience. So, it’s very important to be patient.
Christian: That is definitely true. I wanted to dig into that one point you said, like one year you have good results and one year you have bad results. Very often you see, especially in young athletes, that their identity is attached to the results.
So, if you stand in front of one young athlete, who had a good year the year before, and now has a bad year, what would you say?
Joseph: I would really say to keep working. First of all, they should really assess what they think went wrong. They should really look at themselves on video and see what they are doing or in the matches that they lost, what they think they were doing wrong.
They should just start putting in the time to work on those things and be patient because they had a good year, maybe because they weren’t thinking about the consequences. They were just being themselves and then maybe they had a good year and thought they had to have a better year the next year.
Then sometimes that plays on your head mentally and then you start making certain mistakes that you maybe weren’t making. Or people have caught onto you and you made adjustments and they know how you’re fencing now for my sport or they know what you’re doing. So, it’s very important to really observe what you’re doing and what you can get better at.
Start working on what you need to improve and eventually it’s just going to come back out. You’re going to get more confidence back. That’s what happened with me. I sat down and really evaluated what happened last year. I didn’t do very well. It’s because I just kept doing the same thing and people caught on and I didn’t make adjustments. Now I have to work on these things, if I want to keep going to the next level.
Start working on what you need to improve and eventually it’s just going to come back out.
So, having a bad year early is good, because it actually makes you start focusing on things that you should be working on from a young age and then it comes out later on, where you become solid in that area and you’re able to overcome much more different types of opponents. I think it was actually a good thing for me.
Christian: You have to innovate yourself every time, right?
Joseph: You have to keep going through those times. It’s actually a good indicator that you have something to work on. It should be a motivator and not an obstacle, even though in the moment it does not seem that motivating. But it’s actually a little signal that you have things to work on, and it’s actually going to make you better at the end of it.
It should be a motivator and not an obstacle, even though in the moment it does not seem that motivating. It’s a signal, that you have things to work on, and it’s actually going to make you better at the end of it.
His success habits
Christian: What are the habits that make you a successful person or athlete, and or athlete?
Joseph: I never missed any practices. I kept going to practices, because I wanted to get better. It’s something that I’ve always wanted, the feeling of improving.
I always like to get better, go to practices and try not miss any, because you know those things add up over time. I think that’s mainly the differentiator, I started at 12 years old with another 25 athletes and I was the last one standing after 15 years and just because I kept going back to practice.
I never missed any practices. I started at 12 years old with another 25 athletes and I was the last one standing after 15 years and just because I kept going back to practice.
I just kept going back and I kept going back. Obviously, there were a lot of the times, I didn’t like it as much, but you have to stay emotionally detached from your ups and downs and try to just have a longer vision, because that’s what keeps you going. At one point I wanted to make the national team, and the international team going to the under-17 World Team Cadet World Championship.
Then I wanted to make the Junior World Championship. So, these mini-goals are what keep you motivated more than just the ups and downs of every day or every competition. That’s why I kept coming back and that’s what kept me going and made me want to get better.
It’s important that you have your long-term vision. But the shorter-term goals are good habits to have and to give yourself so that they’re achievable and you feel good when you do them. Then you can get on to the next one without just saying when you start from day one, that you want to make the Olympics, but you’re far away.
It’s important that you have your long-term vision and short-term goals that are achievable and you feel good when you achieved them.
It could really be discouraging if you’re just training because you want to make the Olympics, you’re 12 years old and you’re having bad days and you think it’s too far away. You have to break it down to smaller goals. That was something that helped me keep going.
His morning routine
Christian: When we speak about routines, do you have a morning routine?
Joseph: I have during the competition days, but on a day to day basis, not specifically. I try to just be consistent, going to my practices, going to workouts and things like that. I don’t have anything specific. But before competitions, I do a lot of visualization.
A week before, a day before, and then the day of, I want to be ready to encounter any situation and not be flustered by it and not get nervous. Visualizing and putting yourself in scenarios beforehand really helps. So, that’s definitely something I use because in fencing there’s so many things that could go wrong.
Before competitions, I do a lot of visualization. A week before, a day before, and then the day of, I want to be ready to encounter any situation and not be flustered by it.
You have an opponent who is unpredictable. You have yourself who can make unforced errors, and you have a referee, who in sabre has a lot of input and makes a lot of either mistakes on purpose or by accident. You have to live with that and you have to understand how to deal with those situations.
So, you could have a lot of things that destabilize you mentally. If you live through them beforehand in your head, at least when you get to that point you could say that you thought of a plan. You could also say that you thought exactly when this would happen what you’re going to do to recover. You’re less nervous in the moment and your body reacts a little bit better from what I’ve seen.
Christian: So you’re visualizing situations as well as emotions?
Joseph: Yes. So, I visualize myself doing certain actions well, executing them properly. But I also visualize things going bad or getting a bad call, and then how do I deal with it. I visualize what I would do. I maybe tell myself a word or I wonder if I should take a little moment and back away before getting back onto my ready stance and not try to rush in too quickly.
Because that’s in the past. It’s all these mistakes I’ve made where a referee does a bad call, you don’t agree with it, you get upset and you try to get it back. Then you’re rushing too much and you lose the next three points. It’s a huge, huge issue in fencing, so, it’s important that’s why with experience you get even better at dealing with these situations.
But visualizing them in any sport and any type of situation that goes well and see yourself doing well is good. But also seeing what to do and how to recover from a bad situation. That’s important to be ready for that.
Also check out the interviews with
Who explain the importance of visualization.
How to prepare for important moments
Christian: How do you prepare yourself for important moments, apart from visualization?
Joseph: A big part of it is not overemphasizing the consequences of the moment. So, let’s say I just had a big competition last week in Toronto which counts for a lot of points. In the past I would be thinking too much about needing to come in third or second and how many points I would get.
But then I would get anxious because imagine if I don’t, then I’m so far behind in the points for this qualification. When you think of the outcomes that’s what makes you nervous. But then I think about the process of how I am going to beat these guys.
A big part of it is not overemphasizing the consequences of the moment. When you think of the outcomes that’s what makes you nervous, instead I think about the process.
In my specific issue, I’m going to work on my small steps and change of rhythm. You have to keep your back leg, really firmly planted and push it off that. When you get into the actual actions you need to do well. Your mind just starts finding solutions and start getting good instead of worrying about outcomes because you can’t control that.
The only thing you can control is your arms and your two legs in fencing. So, how are you going to use those to get your result. If you use them well, it doesn’t matter. You’re going to start beating people and then you’re going to get to the outcome.
But it’s very important for me to become conditioned and not to think of the outcome. It has to be more about how I want to fence, how I want to perform and what I want to be doing in specific situation.
That actually makes you way more relaxed, because it says if you have a plan instead of thinking it’s just going to be an outcome with an auto plan. So, putting in a plan in place of how I want to perform is very important for me.
Christian: Something just popped up in my mind. You said in fencing, especially in sabre, it’s the attacker who’s evaluated a bit higher, in terms of getting a point? There’s also one thing, I remember my son told me about either the ninjas or samurais, they said if you have too much emotions in a fight, you’re probably going to lose.
How do you get that balancing act between being the aggressor in the fight, but still staying emotionally calm?
Joseph: That’s something that’s very difficult. If you’ve ever seen the sabre fencing match, there’s a lot of yelling and a lot of emotions. After a point, you yell a lot because you’re excited.
It takes a lot of energy. But it also helps to influence referees from time to time when there are difficult calls to decide if it was my point, when they’re a little bit in the grey zone. It does help sometimes. So, you have to use that emotion in the moment, but what’s important is those five to six seconds you take to get back onto your guard line, you need to reset.
You have to use the emotion in the moment, but it’s important to disassociate the emotions really quickly after a point, and you need to reset.
How do you reset between those emotional moments? That’s really important. Some people take breaths, some people take a couple of more steps back, they tie their shoes, they fix their blade a little bit, they talk or they ask the referee for some more follow-up information of why it wasn’t their point or something like that.
Everyone has a different way. You do a little specific movement with your legs before getting onto the back onto your guard just to make sure you’re reset. But it’s important to disassociate the emotions really quickly after a point and having the tactics to do that. If not, like you said, you sometimes get over-emotional.
Maybe it’ll work for a point or two, but after that, you start making mistakes. You’re over-anxious, over-eager and you over-commit. Then an experienced fencer is going to be able to capitalize on that and really exploit it. So, yes, it’s very important to have those little tricks that you can use to reset between each point and that’s what the best guys do.
Christian: What would be one of the tactics that you’re using or anyone uses just to get an idea?
Joseph: Ok, so sometimes what I’ll do is, after you finish the point you could walk by your opponent or take your time to get back to your line, just to extend the time between the point and getting back. So, I’ll get back to the edge of my strip, open up my mask, wipe some sweat off my face and put it back down.
During that time, I’m just thinking of what I want to do next. I think about what just happened. And then go slowly back to the guard line or you could talk to the referee to get some extra time. You can ask what the point was and find out why it went against you.
So then, you ask for follow-up clarification, sometimes you might not agree. It gives you more time to understand and also to think of your next point as well. Your blade sometimes could be a little bit crooked and you take a couple more seconds to straighten it out on the side of the strip. This buys you some time there.
A lot of people they tie their shoes and they take a little bit more time doing things. So, everyone has a different tactic, but it’s important to have something. That’s where visualization comes in or ties in, thinking how to react in these situations. You can ask yourself what you’re going to do as a tactic and what you’re going to use.
So, you don’t have to be thinking about that in the match. You already have it planned out, what you’re going to use to buy more time to reset. So, it’s very important and something I didn’t do enough of as a kid. I would just get back right to the guard and like next point, next point, next point.
You don’t have to be thinking about that in the match. You already have it planned out, what you’re going to use to buy more time to reset.
Before you know it, the match was over and you wonder what the heck happened. I wasn’t taking the time because every point in sabre fencing specifically, is very quick. It last between maybe two to five seconds and you don’t have a lot of time in the point to make decisions.
You have to adjust on the fly. You have to make preconceived decisions, but be ready to adapt. But if you go back to back to back to back very quickly, you could end up being on a bad side of momentum of the other opponent. You don’t know how to break it and you end up losing very quickly. So, it happened to me a lot in the past.
How to overcome setbacks
Christian: How do you overcome setbacks?
Joseph: I’ve had a lot of them, and I always to go back to the basics of what went wrong to really establish it, and then focus to improve upon it, instead of doing the self-pity or thinking that things always happens to you or that you never make it on the big stage. Then, those thoughts just keep repeating themselves and then no matter what you do, they poison every type of training you do and every competition.
I always to go back to the basics of what went wrong to really establish it, and then focus to improve upon it.
When you’ve tight matches, you have those thoughts coming into your head, you don’t think you could win, and you always end up losing. So, in the past that happened to me too. When you’d have setbacks, you would get down and you start saying that you’ve worked so hard and it’s not working. You start to think that you’re not meant for this.
Those thoughts really have an impact on your performance, in your physical posture, the way you perform, the way you act and the way you train. So, it’s very important to always look at a setback as just an opportunity to figure out what went wrong and to learn, instead of just seeing it as a negative outcome on your performance.
Thinking that you’re not meant for this or that you aren’t good enough will just affect the rest of your performance. You see people who win get more confidence. They always seem to have this confidence because they believe they could keep winning and they keep doing good. People who lose sometimes, if they don’t treat it well, they just get into a vicious cycle of losing.
No matter what they do, even if they have good matches against good guys, when it gets close sometimes that’s when the difference of confidence comes in. The guy who is used to winning and seeing things as positive will find a way to win in the last points. The guy who loses, and thinks negative, finds a way to lose.
Those thoughts really have an impact on your performance, the guy who is used to winning and seeing things as positive will find a way to win. The guy who loses, and thinks negative, finds a way to lose.
In sports, psychological sports and physical sports, like fencing, you have to mix both physical and mental at the same time. It takes a lot, so you have to be very confident.
His role model
Christian: Who’s your role model and why?
Joseph: I get asked that question a lot and I have people I looked up to who I don’t personally know, like an athlete like George St. Pierre. He’s an athlete that’s one of the best fighters in the world of all time and he’s from Montreal, Canada.
Check out the Top 10 George St. Pierre moments
He’s done some great things. He has been a true professional in and out of the UFC Octagon and I read his book during my time when I had a concussion and going to the Olympics. So, it helped me a lot and I actually got to meet him a couple of weeks ago actually.
It was a big moment for me. But I like to also get inspired by people who are around me and on a day-to-day basis, not people who I just see on Instagram or on TV. They could say stuff and you could see some things they do but you don’t really know these people on a daily basis.
The real people who really inspired me through all my life work were my grandparents because they came from Greece with nothing. My grandfather opened a restaurant in Ontario, in Canada, and he’s been working in a restaurant for forty-five years every day from morning till night and I’ve seen it.
It’s not just a story, I grew up in it and he’s 76 years old and he’s still there and he’s the hardest-working guy I’ve ever met. He was always trying to help me whenever he could and it was always something that I would think about when I had tough times and when I was training.
I saw that he came with nothing, yet he created a life and he gave me and my family an opportunity to do this. You can never complain and this guy has the hardest work you’ve ever seen. He’s now 76 year, he still works 12 hours a day, running a restaurant with 30 to 40 employees.
My grandfather came from Greece with nothing, yet he created a life and he gave me and my family an opportunity to do this. He’s now 76 year, he still works 12 hours a day, running a restaurant with 30 to 40 employees.
He’s my idol because he was there and all my grandparents were very hard workers. So, I can’t ever complain or be down on myself because these guys have done so much more. It was always something that really pushed me and because he was in my immediate circle, I was able to see it every day.
The best advice he has received
Christian: What is the best advice you received and who gave it to you?
Joseph: That’s a tough one, I’ve had a lot of different advice, but there’s not one, or a particular thing of advice that someone gave me. It’s just my parents would give me some good advice. It was always to do what I loved and that was also lucky of me that my parents didn’t ask me to work.
My parents would give me some good advice, it was always to do what I loved.
They didn’t ask what was fencing, what I was doing or why I was doing this? To do something that I loved, and that really helped give me the confidence to keep going and not feel bad about it or feel like I’m wasting my time. I did not ask who I was and what my purpose was. So, I think my parents telling me that as a kid was always something that helped me try different things and not care about what other people thought.
A typical training day in the life of a professional fencer
Christian: How does a typical training day in the life of a fencer look like?
Joseph: We have a lot of things you have to work on in fencing. First, of all you have your technique. You have your basics, hitting different parts of the body and blocking people’s attacks. Lunging movement, you have to move in small steps and squat position very quickly with your arm, being very available and quick to come out very coordinated.
So you have to practice a lot of technique over the years. But the problem in fencing is that you have to be very good at technique. But if you’re not good at applying the right choice of action, at the right time, against the right opponent, you could be the worst fencer in the world, even though you train every day.
That’s a tough part of the sport and the combat sport is that every opponent is a different puzzle and is a different person. You can’t just be a robot and just do your technique, even though you need to have very good technique under high stress situations.
But if you don’t choose your actions properly or choose the timing of actions or the distance of when you do things, they look very well. But you don’t hit the opponent because if it’s too far or he’s too close and he gets you, well then it’s useless.
So you need to train tactics as well and that’s an important part. Tactics is figuring out when you lunge at the opponent. It is also knowing when I make him come at me and make him thinks he’s attacking me, but I’m actually going to block him.
That takes a lot of understanding how opponent’s weaknesses are and their strengths and seeing how to nullify them. That’s what takes so much time in fencing, because as a youngster, you could be very quick and aggressive and could get you some points, but an experienced person will quickly find a way to make you go into their game.
So, there’s a lot of tactics that you have to train with, technique, physical, agility, core and explosiveness. When you want to execute your actions you have to execute them quickly and efficiently, so that’s where technique comes in and physicality.
But it’s a very complete sport, because like I said, you could always maximize your own strengths to nullify someone else’s strengths. There’s people who are six foot two in fencing or six foot five. There are people who are five foot eight and five foot nine and they all find different ways to maximize their bodies, because everyone could find a way to win. That’s what I like about it. I think it’s a sport that really develops all aspects of your psychology and personality as well.
You can always maximize your own strengths to nullify someone else’s strengths.
Christian: How long is a fight, up to how many points?
Joseph: It’s up to 15 points and they last round 15 minutes on average, so it goes by quite fast.
Christian: And it’s also a high intensity, with a work to rest ratio is maybe five seconds on and then another six to seven seconds off?
Joseph: Yes, exactly. It’s very quick, we do some actions, go back and forth and then you take some time to get back on and then restart. So you have to have a lot of on-off, on-off switch, being able to be on really quickly and really on and then be able to recover quickly, so you can be on again. That’s a lot of the type of sprints and plyometric and things like that, that we have to use.
His interview nomination
Christian: Okay, do you want to nominate someone to be interviewed?
Joseph: I could nominate someone I interviewed recently. He’s a very interesting guy. He’s a fencer though, from another nation, Germany. I don’t know if you want to do another fencer, so maybe I’ll find someone else. I’ll think of a name and I’ll get back to you.
Christian: Okay. I think I saw that one on your podcast.
Joseph: Yeah, because you said from other nations. He’s really interesting, but I’ll get someone else. I’ll send you an email.
Christian: Oh why not? Is his name Max Hartung?
Christian: So, we would have two Germans speaking English with each other?
Joseph: Exactly and he’s very well-spoken and is a smart guy too. He’s currently ranked number two or three in the world now, in my weapon. So he’s a very good guy.
Christian: I think that would be really interesting, because also, it’s long ago, it must have been in the 80’s, in Germany, there was a school that was very famous for fencing in Tauberbischofsheim.
Joseph: Yes, I’ve been there. It’s amazing.
Christian: The coach back in the day was Emil Beck, I think he’s not around anymore, but it was very famous as him being able to produce athlete after athlete.
Joseph: Yes, Tauber’s a legendary club. Tauberbischofsheim is a very legendary place.
Christian: Would be cool to hear what Max has to say.
His motivation to start ‘The Olympians Podium’ podcast
Christian: Speaking about your interview, you have a really cool podcast. I listened to a few episodes, ‘The Olympians Podium’. You interview Olympic athletes. What was your motivation to start that podcast?
Joseph: I decided to start it after Rio 2016, when I went to the Rio Olympics and there were two reasons I wanted to start it. First of all, I was there and I started talking to my fellow Canadian athletes and everybody had some crazy story.
I was talking about my issues and then I was on a track and one of my friends, he was a track cyclist and he flew off the track and hit headfirst onto a pole. He was knocked out for two days. Everything was broken. Another one went and he was a diver. He fell off a diving board and fell into a ditch and broke his ribs and his face and it was ridiculous stories that were life-threatening.
I found that in the Olympic coverage, for about five months before the Olympics, some things are covered and some things are not. But it’s not always easy to follow all these stories. So I said that I wanted to go out and do this. Two Olympians talking about their stories and the lessons they learned, could really help a lot of people out there, overcome their own setbacks.
Two Olympians talking about their stories and the lessons they learned, could really help a lot of people out there, overcome their own setbacks.
I think that was an important part of it. Another thing I didn’t like, is that I was on Facebook one day and I was seeing all these ads of people, these self-help gurus and nutrition gurus and lifestyle gurus and coaches telling us how to do things and live our lives and be good at business and be good at this and I was wondering who these guys are.
Nobody knows who these people are, they just appear out of nowhere, but Olympians have been doing it for many years, that’s very well-documented. There’s no lying there. Every result is noted. So, you know these guys went through things and they have things to tell you that you could actually believe and trust, instead of just someone who paid an advertisement on Facebook and says he’s a guru now.
I was seeing all these ads of self-help gurus, and I was wondering who these guys are. Nobody knows who these people are, they just appear out of nowhere, and paid an advertisement on Facebook and says they are a guru now. But Olympians have been doing it for many years, that’s very well-documented. Every result is noted, there’s no lying there.
So I was tired of hearing them. We’re going to have some really meaningful conversations about who these people are, their normal lives and things they’ve done. So far, I love doing it and it’s something I want to keep doing.
It is very difficult to do it consistently as I want with the hectic schedule, but I have a couple more that I filmed, that I’ve recorded in the back, so another three or four that I’m going to be releasing shortly after the World Championships and the Pan-American games, so if anyone would like to tune in, we have some great stories, ‘The Olympians Podium’. It’s on iTunes, Spotify, every podcast outlet and let me know what you guys think too.
Christian: Yes, I will definitely link that up. [Your video’s stopped working but I can still hear you. As long as I can hear you, it’s fine,] but definitely I cannot agree more with what you just said. That was also the reason why I started what I’m doing now.
First and foremost, I train Olympians and I know in some sports, you don’t receive the media attention that other sports receive. But these guys definitely give everything they have for their sports. So, I wanted to share their story first and foremost.
Secondly, what you also just said, there are so many people who shout that they know something. But as you said, I mean athletes have done it over and over again and they have walked the walk and not only talked the talk.
- Please check out Olympic athletes interviewed episode 0, where you can find more details about the mission and motivation of the interview series.
Joseph: Exactly! I was so tired of seeing so many of them, like resilience coaches. What is that? You just go around telling people how to be resilient, but where is your story, you could invent anything. There’s nothing on you, so I was tired of that.
Christian: I can definitely see that.
Where can you find Joseph Polossifakis
Christian: Where can people find you?
Joseph: Yes, so I’m on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook as ‘Joseph Polossifakis’ or ‘j_ polo’ on Instagram. But if you write my full name, though it’s a little complicated, you can find it on all the outlets and ‘theolympianspodium’, so it’s all one word. Well one word on Instagram but if not online, I have a website, ‘TheOlympiansPodium.com’ and I’m also on iTunes, Spotify, all that stuff so find me there, I’m waiting.
Joseph Polossifakis’ social profiles
The Olympian’s Podium Podcast
Christian: Really cool. No definitely, I will link that up. I listen to quite a few episodes, it’s pretty good stuff
Joseph: Thank you.
Christian: Hey Joseph, thanks for your time.
Joseph: Thank you very much Christian. I really appreciate it and happy to collaborate on this. I know we have similar goals and it’s good to see people doing similar things.