‘I realized, that I could do a much better statement, by going to the Olympics, competing, and uniting the world.’ Steve Foley – Olympic athletes interviewed Episode 109
Steve Foley, triple Olympian, an accomplished Performance Director for 3 different countries, outlines how he got threatened and bribed to not participate in the 1980 Olympics, his lifelong love for the sport of diving, and the different challenges he faces now as a performance director.
Furthermore, we discuss
- How he got into diving
- His darkest moment
- His best moment
- His advice to a younger Steve Foley
- What areas can he, as a Performance Director, influence and what areas he has limited influence
- His experiences working on 3 different continents
- His recollections of the 1980 Olympic Games, which have been boycotted by many countries
- His success habits
- What makes the perfect diver
- His morning routine
- How to prepare for important moments
- How to overcome setbacks
- His role model
- The best advice he has received
- A typical training day in the life of an Olympic diver
- What made 4-time Olympic champion Greg Louganis so special
- His interview nomination
- What’s going on in the life of Steve Foley at this moment
- Where can you find Steve Foley
Christian: Today I’m joined by Steve Foley. Steve is a triple Olympian, competed at the 1976, 1980 and 1984 Olympic Games, representing Australia in diving.
His biggest achievements next to being a triple Olympian is that he is the first Australian diver to final in three-meter springboard and 10-meter platform. After his career, Steve has moved on to being a Performance Director for Australia, GB [Great Britain], and the US.
Steve: Yes, thank you for having me, Christian.
How he got into diving
Christian: Steve, let’s go back to the beginning. How did it all get started? How did you get started with diving?
Steve: It was by accident. I had asthma as a young child and there were no sort of medication in those days. The doctor said I should take up swimming because it would be good for the lungs and enlarge the breathing.
I took up swimming and it just wasn’t for me. It was a bit boring, looking at a black line, even though I respect all the swimmers out there. It happened to have a diving pool at the other end of the Aquatic Center. I thought that it looked more exciting, so I started to jump off the diving boards and one thing led to another.
I had asthma as a young child and the doctor said I should take up swimming because it would be good for the lungs and enlarge the breathing. I took up swimming and it just wasn’t for me, it was a bit boring, looking at a black line. The Aquatic Center happened to have a diving pool at the other end and that it looked more exciting.
Christian: At what age was that?
Steve: I was really about eight or nine years old.
His darkest moment
Christian: In your athletic life, what was your darkest moment?
Steve: The 1980 Moscow Olympics, the boycott, and different things that were happening in the world at that stage. In Australia, the government did not want us to go but they also weren’t prepared to go to the lengths the USA did and absolutely stopped everyone from going. They put a lot of pressure on the individual divers and or athletes.
At the time, I was 22 years of age, I was still pretty young and immature. In my case, I got a phone call from the Minister of Sport from the federal government telling me that they don’t want me to go. They asked me to boycott saying it was the right thing to do because of the Soviet Union’s invasion of Afghanistan. They offered to give me $6,000 not to go.
I got a phone call from the Minister of Sport telling me that they don’t want me to go to the 1980 Moscow Olympics. They asked me to boycott and offered to give me $6,000 not to go.
I remember thinking that I was a millionaire. I figured I could drive a convertible, my hair could blow in the wind and I’d just be super cool. Of course, $6,000 back then was a lot of money, especially when everything was very amateur.
But then I just realized that this was my dream. I had been training so hard all my life to go to the Olympics. I thought that surely I could make a better statement if I go to the Olympic Games as an athlete uniting the world.
To me, that would be a better protest. I turned the government down and they said that if I went, they would not give me any money in the future. I told them that I had gotten none in the past, anyway. But it was a really dark time.
I also deferred from college to focus on my diving. I worked in a bank and the bank was very good. They would give me time away to travel, compete, and training. One day a customer from the bank invited me out for lunch.
He was a multi-millionaire and the bank’s richest customer. He was originally from Poland. He suddenly brought up how the Soviet Union invaded Poland in 1956. He was prepared to give me some money not to go and he would fund any trip I did in the future. Again, I was told that if I went, he would shut his account.
These were tough times for a 22-year-old. It wasn’t even about being offered money. It was the position you felt you were put in.
The government made us feel like traitors and he was a customer in the bank threatening to close his account just because I wanted to compete in the Olympics. But without a doubt, it was tough and dark times. But like everything, it was perhaps a turning point in my career.
I thought that I could make a better statement if I go to the Olympic Games as an athlete uniting the world. To me, that would be a better protest.
Christian: How did it all turn out at the Olympics?
Steve: Yes, that’s the funny thing. We had to sneak out of the country because they thought we were traitors and the public was against us. However, once the Olympics took off, people back home were watching the Olympics and really enjoying it.
We had to make some sacrifices. The minute we’d finished competing, we pretty much got on a plane and came home. So it was quite surreal. One minute, you’re at the Olympics competing and the next minute you’re back home in Australia watching the closing ceremony on TV.
It was a bit strange, but ultimately, all those that did go made a better statement through the Soviets. We competed with an Olympic flag, not the national flag. We didn’t play our national anthem. We’d only played the Olympic Anthem if someone medaled.
We had the opportunity actually at the Games to perhaps make a little bit of a protest against the Soviet Union. But at the same time, there were so many Soviet athletes that were good friends of mine and it wasn’t their doing.
In hindsight, when we look back, Russia was in Afghanistan, right through till 1990. That was another 10 years, and no one seemed to care or protest. Additionally, don’t forget in Australia, our government was still doing wheat trade with the Soviet Union. So in the end, I realized I’ve made the right decision.
His best moment
Christian: What was your best moment?
Steve: As an athlete, definitely four years later at the Los Angeles Olympics 1984. I was almost going to say because I’ve made a lot of sacrifices, but you don’t make sacrifices, you make choices.
You don’t make sacrifices, you make choices.
They were choices that I wanted to make to get where I wanted to be. I wanted to become the first Australian male to make finals on a springboard and platform. This hadn’t been done and others might ask why not for the medal.
However, as I got older and wiser, you actually realize where you stand in the world of diving and what you’re capable of. I was not going to beat the great Greg Louganis and the Chinese were now competing. It’s just a reality that perhaps the absolute best I could hope for on a day out, might’ve been a fourth or fifth and as it was, it was an eighth or ninth.
Check out one of Steve Foley’s dive at the 1984 Olympic Games
Typically, when your dreams or your goals are achieved, it’s when it’s just a great moment in your life because it was worth every little thing you decided to do to finally get there. When it comes to fruition, what makes it special is that I can sit here now and tell you every score I got on every single dive 36 years ago.
That is because it mattered to me. It doesn’t matter to anyone else. That’s very important as I reflect and look back to that moment which was special to me and it still is. That’s all it should matter. It shouldn’t matter to anyone else, just yourself.
His advice to a younger Steve Foley
Christian: If you could go back in time, 10, 15, 20, maybe 30 years, what advice would you give a younger Steve?
Steve: It would just be to keep learning and never doubt yourself. It’d be silly to sit here and say there weren’t moments and periods of doubt in my career, especially at the Moscow Olympics that you got a little bit guilty and started wondering if you were you’re doing the right thing.
It’s always important to believe in your own philosophy or your own faith. Whatever you believe in, stick by it. But also you keep learning because as I sit here now, and obviously gone from athlete to coach to performance director, I just keep learning.
It’s always important to believe in your own philosophy. Whatever you believe in, stick by it.
What I found as a coach which was very interesting going from an athlete is as an athlete, you are very self-centered and very focused on your goals and you have that tunnel vision. As a coach, now you’ve got to worry about six or seven or even 10 to 20 different personalities as no one thinks the same. These are fascinating challenges.
They’re actually teaching you as a coach, as you go along in this process. For me, that was really important to learn from the athletes and other people around me.
Obviously, in my day, we didn’t have experts like you in strength and conditioning. Now they’re such an integral part of training and preparation that again, I’ve learned so much from listening to the experts, but maybe it would be, make sure you keep listening and learn.
What areas can he, as a Performance Director, influence and what areas he has limited influence
Christian: I’ve taken a note, and I wanted to ask you later, but it fits perfectly here. Working as a Performance Director, you helped GB to win the first medal after 44 years.
In the US, you helped the US win medals at two Olympic Games after they have not won for two previous Olympic games. What would you say are the areas a Performance Director can influence and what are the areas where you are limited?
Steve: That is a really great point because you’re exactly right. There are areas where you really can’t influence. Back to my time in US diving, it was predominantly college diving. The college employs a diving coach and their boss is a swimming coach who’s under the Athletic Director.
I had literally no say, if you like, in the day-to-day training and aspects of the college coach and what they’re doing with the athlete. But what I try to do is make sure I know what they’re doing and keep involved. I ensure that the coach realizes that I value what they’re doing and want to know how I can assist if they need it.
Then when you plan and do camps, running preparations, competition schedules, whatever you may be doing for the national side, make sure you involve the coaches with it. What was important for me, and still is important, is collaboration and really working with people.
What is important for me, is collaboration and really working with people.
It was not just to put out my plan and tell them that this is what we’re going to do. It was giving them a draft and then asking how it fits in with their training schedule and their plans because the competition in the college system is very important. The athletes are on scholarship.
Now, their season is roughly November to March, but internationally that could clash with a lot of competitions. You have to be flexible and just understand that you can’t impact on the collegiate program.
It’s really a case of don’t try and be everything to everyone. Work where you can and make sure you make an impact where you really can enhance performance. That’s what I look at, how I can enhance their performance.
His experiences working on 3 different continents
Christian: You’ve worked for GB, the US, and Australia. What would be the similarities between the roles and what would be the differences?
Steve: The similarity certainly with Great Britain and Australia is it’s mainly government-funded. They have UK Sport and we have the Australian Institute of Sport. So the government funding is very similar.
But in the US, I’d write a high-performance plan and it would go to the US Olympic Committee which is very different. The US Olympic Committee is, of course, all funded by sponsorship and donations, et cetera. So there’s no government funding at all in the US.
But having said that, the similarity is I still have someone, I have to write a high-performance plan to sell it, get approval, and hopefully then get the money to put the plan into operation. That’s very similar worldwide. In fact, it’s usually how it works, but Britain and Australia are very similar because of the government funding.
His recollections of the 1980 Olympic Games, which have been boycotted by many countries
Christian: I wanted to go back to the moment of younger Steve, just because I’m so interested. You competed in the 1976 Olympics where almost the whole world competed and the 1980 Olympics, where half of the world competed, and the 1984 Olympics where the other half of the world competed. What are your recollections of all the different Games?
Steve: Good point. The 1976Olympics, simply because I was 18 years old and it was my first Olympic Games. It was almost overpowering. Certainly, back then, there weren’t all these international competitions and I used to watch a show and it would have black and white videos of previous Olympians and diving highlights, and in fact, just general Olympic highlights.
It even had Jesse Owens at the 1936 Olympics. It was just suddenly, it was real. You were actually going to go to the Olympics and do the march on and everything else. The march on was sensational.
It is still the highlight, simply because I can really dive in front of 10,000 people, but when you march on in front of 100,000 people, you get chills down your spine. It’s very moving and emotional. To see the torch lit, is phenomenal.
Simply because Montreal was the very first experience, I can reflect back and say it was probably the most emotional one. Then also I competed and in my own mind, if people asked me about Montreal, a lot of the time, I would say it wasn’t very good.
However, it was because my performance wasn’t very good. I measured the Olympic experience also by my performance. The beauty of Montreal is I didn’t make the finals so I sat in the crowd watching the world’s best in action and just looking at what was my next step if I was going to get to that level.
Montreal was a really, really good eye-opener and learning experience, and it kept me going for the next eight years, for the next two Olympics, because I wanted to achieve what I felt I really could do on the international world stage. If you like, the failure of Montreal was what drove me to then having success.
The failure of Montreal was what drove me to then having success. Because I wanted to achieve what I felt I really could do on the international world stage.
What we spoke about with Moscow and the boycott was a big, big impression. I liked the atmosphere of the whole games. There were lots of little things. There was no internet and mobile phones back then.
You would go into the little post office in the village and you’d make a collect call back home to Australia to talk to your parents. My father would ask what the Olympics was like. I would tell him that it was good, but if felt like there was a lot of military.
They were listening to all your calls. You were being tightly monitored and listened to at the Olympics. So that was quite an interesting experience.
The Los Angeles Olympics was like a party. It was a Hollywood production. Even though a lot of the communist block was missing, it was still massive, especially in diving. I think it probably saved the Olympics.
There was talk that the Moscow Olympics, that the Olympics were over, and Los Angeles, not only saved it, but it was the first time an Olympics actually made money, like a massive profit. They showed the way about using existing facilities and the village wasn’t built yet.
It was at a dormitory in college and they were very smart with what they did and I think it saved the Olympic movement. As I said, the atmosphere in LA, compared to anything else, was really like a party. Imagine what the Super Bowl must be like.
The Los Angeles Olympics was like a party. It probably saved the Olympics.
The Hollywood stars were in the crowd and you get invited out. I ended up at Hugh Hefner’s mansion. Can you believe it or not? Because a swimmer was dating a Playboy bunny.
It was just the crazy type of surreal experience. But I remember I was playing up to the crowd in the diving competition because Greg Louganis was getting tens and I was getting seven and a half and eights.
The crowd booed because they thought it looked good. So I’d rally the crowd to cheer me on. You could really do that. As an athlete, you got more involved in competition than you certainly did in the past.
His success habits
Christian: What are the habits that make you a successful athlete and person?
Steve: That is a really good question. As an athlete, coach, and performance director, I was always a really good listener. I remember even as a young kid, I loved watching athletes get interviewed. Even Jack Nicholas, after he’d won the Masters and he’s been interviewed because you got some insight into how their mind was thinking.
It became a bit of a habit of mine as I progressed through my sporting career. But really read interviews, watch them on TV and see if I can gauge something from their mindset. I don’t know, it is just fascination in other sportspeople, especially those that were having success.
I was always a really good listener. It became a bit of a habit of mine as I progressed through my sporting career.
That was a habit I got into quite young, really being aware of other sports and other sportspeople and just little things they might say that resonated with you, or perhaps confirmed that I am training the right way. That was something and I still do it to this day.
I love listening to a Tiger Woods’ interview. His insights – his mind is working differently from a lot of other golfers. It’s very interesting
What makes the perfect diver
Christian: What makes the perfect diver?
Steve: We haven’t seen it yet, but I suppose Greg Louganis was certainly one of the closest to it. Put it this way, the Chinese, they’ve done their homework and it’d be fair to say that’s kind of the perfect body for diving.
People have talked about Michael Phelps having the perfect swimmer’s body where his arm span is longer than his height and normally most people’s height and arm span is similar. The Chinese with a longer trunk and shorter legs is a very good physique to have for diving. Your center of gravity is smaller and you can spin faster.
Certainly, it’d be fair to say the perfect diver could be an Asian type build, but you can’t underestimate the courage and guts it takes to be a good diver because you might have the best anatomical and physiological shape for a diver, but you might be scared and you can’t dive scared. So you still can’t beat the heart and the mind.
You can’t underestimate the courage and guts it takes to be a good diver.
Christian: Yes. That’s what Greg Louganis got famous for, right. He hit the board and then he came back and to claim the gold medal.
Steve: Correct, yes. That’s right. Mental strength, isn’t it?
Christian: Yes, absolutely.
Check out the legendary ‘Greg Louganis moment’ at the 1988 Olympic Games
His morning routine
Christian: Do you have a morning routine?
Steve: Today I do. When I was an athlete, it would be getting up and training before school or work. But what I tend to do now is being involved with the Australian Institute of Sport, I send out a daily news brief by email electronic news.
It’s news about all Australian sports, but also quite a lot of international articles, which again, I really like to read. I want to know what the world is doing. I even go on their websites, some of the opposition in the mornings just to see if they’ve got some new initiatives.
That’s one of the great things about this era we live in now with the internet, electronic and social media. No one’s really protective or hiding any secret things now. They’re quite open to sharing. This makes the world of sport perhaps more competitive. I really liked that.
One of the great things about this era we live in now with the internet, electronic and social media. No one’s really protective or hiding any secret things now. They’re quite open to sharing. This makes the world of sport perhaps more competitive. I really like that.
Definitely in the morning, the first thing will be reading that newsletter. There is another one that I wrote down because I always forget the name, Inside the Games and the UK Route. It always has really, really interesting articles. So I just love it because there’s so much knowledge out there and great things happening that you just want to read about and see then what maybe you can apply to your job or sport.
Christian: That comes back to what you said previously about constantly learning.
Steve: Yes, exactly.
How to prepare for important moments
Christian: How do you prepare for important moments?
Steve: Look in one simple word, it is planning. It’s something that, even as an athlete and you got to understand when I was an athlete, my coach had a nine to five job, so it was a hobby for him. You tended to make your own plans.
- Also check out the interview ‘Don’t waste a day on things that are unimportant.’ Craig Simpson, a member of the legendary Edmonton Oilers team in the late 1980s, the early 1990s, who outlines the importance of planning and preparation in the Oilers team.
I planned that I needed to go and travel through Europe for three weeks and compete on the European tour to then ultimately prepare for the World Championships a month later. I always felt like I knew what I needed to do because I had a plan.
I always felt like I knew what I needed to do because I had a plan.
And having a plan also helped me once I became a coach, and particularly now as a Performance Director. Obviously, Tokyo 2020[one] is on hold, but we’d already had a base and a facility picked.
To be honest, I went and found it three years ago and we’ve already had two camps there, so the athletes could get familiar with it. So it wouldn’t be something unusual in the lead-up to the Olympic Games. So for me, it’s really about planning.
How to overcome setbacks
Christian: How do you overcome setbacks?
Steve: Just learn from them. First, as an athlete, when you have a setback you get angry at yourself and annoyed. But in actual fact when I think about it and it doesn’t matter even today, if I make a mistake, I’m actually quite excited about it because it gives me a chance to learn from it.
I remember as an athlete, if I had a setback or a bad day in competition, which we all have, you can remember almost everything. It might be that I felt so tired or my body wasn’t with it. It could be that I was distracted or the judges were no good.
You start to blame and do things, but you actually realize you were so aware of why things weren’t working. But when you have a great day, you almost can’t remember anything and that’s what they refer to as being in the zone. It just clicks; it happens.
Your mind is just locked in somewhere. For me, when you have a bad day, it’s actually great because you can really reflect and work out and almost pinpoint what it was that led to that. For me, you learn more from a bad day or a setback than you sometimes do from a great day.
If I make a mistake, I’m actually quite excited about it because it gives me a chance to learn from it.
Christian: You just said, you get excited from a mistake. I can follow the thought process, however, I believe, or I think if you make a mistake, you are not so excited with the outcome of the mistake. How would you put that into perspective?
Steve: Yes, and really I can say that now, overall the experiences I’ve had but I certainly wasn’t too excited as an athlete or a coach if it was particularly my fault. I guess what I mean is I’m not like disgusted in myself or I beat myself up about it.
That’s something you’ve got to be very careful of when you make a mistake is blaming people, but the worst thing is blaming itself. It’s a good thing to take responsibility, but that’s what I mean, I guess when I say excitedly. Now, I can analyze it and look back and work out what I did wrong so I can really prevent it from happening in the future.
Perhaps excited is not the word, but I don’t beat myself up anymore. I’m okay with it. I’m comfortable that I made a mistake. I’ll put my hand up and now I know how to fix it. It’s really about the fact that I’m okay that I feel I can learn from any mistakes I make now.
Twenty years ago, I probably would’ve beaten myself up. Again, it’s probably just experiencing that I’m in that position where I’m more comfortable with myself if I have made a mistake.
Christian: Yes. It comes back to this growth mindset versus fixed mindset idea. You approach it as an opportunity.
- Also check out the interview ‘Confront yourself with your doubts!’ With 2010 Olympic Champion Mark Tuitert, who outlines how he developed a growth mindset to help overcome setbacks.
Steve: Yes, that’s right. Out of these things an opportunity does arise.
His role model
Christian: Who’s your role model and why?
Steve: As a young kid, you’re watching sport and I think we all have many role models. The biggest one for me in my career might’ve been Greg Norman, the golfer. He’s just slightly older than me.
He was having success with the same sort of time breaking through on the Australian scene and the world scene in 1976. I tended to fall in a spot of what he was doing because, back then in Australia, it wasn’t a lot.
We didn’t have an abundance of superstars. We did quite well in swimming. Certainly, back in the fifties and sixties, we had some great tennis players, but seventies and eighties, Australia didn’t really have a lot of superstars.
Greg Norman was making that breakthrough on the global side, and he opened the door for a whole new generation and now Australia has a lot of great golfers, male and female. People could look back and they will tell you that Greg Norman inspired them. He was definitely someone I admired and looked up to.
Christian: Yes. It’s like the “it’s impossible until it’s done.” So if someone paves the way, then it’s easy for others to follow.
Steve: Yes, very true. As I say, Australian diving now has won 12 Olympic medals, including two gold medals. In some way there, it helps to start that progress.
The best advice he has received
Christian: What is the best advice you received and who gave it to you?
Steve: That’s a good one because it’s actually not advice but it just turned my career around. I was competing in Holland way back in 1974 and I was 15 or 16 years of age and I’m actually very big for a diver. I’m over six feet and I’ve got long legs and long arms and it’s definitely not the right build for a diver, but back then, there wasn’t really the science anyway.
But the Dutch coach came up to me and my father when we were diving in the Dutch Championships which I won. so there, I got even with him. But he told me that I would never make a diver. That was red right awful for me. I just thought that I would show him.
The coach told me that I would never make a diver. That was red right awful for me. I just thought that I would show him.
That just stuck with me and it has my whole life. It was more a case of when people tell you, you can’t, you don’t need any more motivation if it’s something you really want.
I saw him two years later at Montreal, the Games and he apologized and came up and said that I proved him wrong. I just told him that I did and maybe there were many other people too. In my own way, he did me a favor.
But it did stick with me. It burned me that he didn’t even know me, and yet he could say that. It was a great thing in a way when I looked back because it kept pushing me and driving me forward.
I feel for some people on social media. I hope actually they can use it that way. Every now and then, somebody might put something on social media, and then someone will respond that they don’t even know, but it can affect them. Whereas all I can say is just use it to inspire you.
A typical training day in the life of an Olympic diver
Christian: You look back on 50 years of experience in diving. How does a typical training day look like? How did it look like in your times? How does it look like nowadays?
Steve: It’s all very different. That’s for sure. Look, I did one year of university and said that I was going to defer because I could always go back to school, but I could never go back to an Olympics. That was my mindset in the seventies and I did that.
I did one year of university and said that I was going to defer because I could always go back to school, but I could never go back to an Olympics.
Obviously, you still needed money to make it work. I ended up working two jobs. I got the job in the bank, so I’d go at seven o’clock in the morning before work; work from 9:00 to 4:30/5:00, go off and train again, and then at 7 o’clock at night, I’d go and work as a doorman at a nightclub because I just needed some extra cash in hand.
I worked two jobs and then what I’d do is I’d train around it, but obviously, not for the same length of time. It may be an hour in the morning and an hour and a half at night if I was lucky. But then what I would do is I’d take six months’ leave from work without pay.
That was fine. I sold my car and then go and train in America next to Greg Louganis in California at the time. We actually became really good friends because I thought if I’m going to get better, I might as well dive with the best.
As I said, it’s not a sacrifice. Of course, it was great. But now everything’s provided in Australia in particularly run by the Australian Institute of Sport funding. We have state institutes, Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane, Perth, Adelaide. Hobart that supports the athletes with strength and conditioning, nutrition, sports psych, biomechanics, whatever you may need.
Obviously, it didn’t exist in my day. If you got injured, you just put a bit of ice on it and go back and try it again. It’s really great how professional everything is and there is a wonderful support. The athletes today in diving, the main thing they do is 10 training sessions a week but not all in the water, which is something I did.
They have dryland training now where they have diving boards into pits, trampolines, and everything else. They do two, sometimes three S&C sessions a week as part of their training. They’ll probably get a massage once a week and if they’ve got an injury, physio once or twice as well.
But having said that, they’d get funding. They’re there on account of scholarships and we pay for all the trips and everything else. So it is very different, I just call it, it’s evolved. The level of diving worldwide is quite phenomenal, like every sport.
But they’re a lot more accountable. If I’ve made a mistake or stuffed up, it was just on me. But now if something doesn’t work out, you could lose your scholarship or cut your funding. That’s what adds to a lot of the athlete wellness and the stress of the day.
We’re so fixated on “you got to get a medal” instead of “how can we help him enjoy the sport and have a personal best” because if we do that, they’ll leave the sport very happy. We don’t want them to leave the sport angry and not liking it.
We’re so fixated on “you got to get a medal” instead of “how can we help him enjoy the sport and have a personal best”.
Inadvertently, I think it’s a bit harder for them these days, just because of the added pressure. Having said that, the funding for the sport has been there before they were born.
So it’s something they’ve just grown up with and most of them deal with it very, very well. But I do think at times, it certainly got more pressure on them and more expectation than what I had to deal with.
What made 4-time Olympic champion Greg Louganis so special
Christian: You just sparked my interest. You said you trained with Greg Louganis. I remember the 1984 Olympic Games were the first Olympic Games I can really remember as a young boy and I saw him, for example. What do you think made him special?
Steve: Two things. When you watch a great athlete in any sport, it’s almost like you’re watching in slow motion and he had this amazing power. He had grace and beauty and he did a dive and it just looked effortless and in slow motion, yet he’s working as hard as anyone else, but it never looked it.
I had actually brought him in as an athlete mentor because I told him that he had to start teaching the athletes his mindset. I used to chat to him about it this when I was in America. One of the great things he had that separated him from so many athletes, well certainly divers, is how he dealt with all the pressure at a home Olympics from LA in front of all the crowd.
They had this massive expectation, plus he had to wait eight years since Montreal to have a go because he had boycotted Moscow. I had to ask him how he dealt with all that expectation and pressure.
He told me that there was no pressure. He said he just looked at it as if he is a performer and these people have come to watch his show, so he was going to put on a show. It was just sort of innocent and natural that he saw himself as a performer.
That really didn’t resonate with me as I went along because most of us, we saw ourselves as competitors. He was a performer and that separated him. Put it this way, that’s why he was so good in a competition.
Most of us, we saw ourselves as competitors, he saw himself as a performer and that separated him.
That was like a Michael Jordan. He put on a show; he performed; he wanted to show he’s the best. Yes, he was a performer and that separated him from a lot of his competitors.
Christian: You know, what’s interesting? That’s exactly what Inge de Bruijn, the Dutch swimmer said. She said every time she walked into the arena, she just imagined everyone just came to watch her, which took the pressure off and allowed her to just perform.
- Check out the interview ‘You can always do more than you think you can.’ With 4-time Olympic champion Inge de Bruijn.
Steve: Yes, that’s what makes these people great, isn’t it? The way they see the moment instead of being intimidated or they’re comfortable in it and you almost want to show off. It’s fabulous.
His interview nomination
Christian: Do you want to nominate someone to be interviewed?
Steve: Greg Norman, if you can, but I don’t have a contact. Obviously, in diving circles, Greg Louganis would be wonderful, or perhaps David Boudia who won the 2012 Olympic gold medal USA diving.
He’s just recently going to be involved with the ESPN documentary actually about athlete pressures and wellness. He’s an Olympic gold medalist, but he can tell you that before he got it, he went through athlete wellness struggles.
So he could be a very interesting one too, but gosh, there are so many great athletes out there. You can pick, but David Boudia or Greg Louganis would certainly be terrific stories.
Christian: Yes, that’s for sure.
What’s going on in the life of Steve Foley at this moment
Christian: What’s going on in the life of Steve at this moment? You are heading into your 12th Olympic Games.
Steve: That’s been put on hold, isn’t it? That’s going to last another year with COVID and everything. It’s a crazy time for sure. When we have to change plans, new preparation, new competition schedule that we’ve also got to have a plan B simply because it might be Tokyo wants to go ahead next year.
What can I do to keep the athletes and coaches motivated? Let’s face it, they’re trying so hard for that particular moment in time to compete. Working on even trying to establish a national league in Australia, where they compete around the country and it could be exciting.
They would compete for prize money and just give them something to aim for, should the Olympics not take place, but we try to be positive. We expect it to go ahead.
So if you like, we’re just looking at business as normal and preparing for Tokyo next year. Apart from that, trying to stay healthy and keep out of trouble.
Where can you find Steve Foley
Christian: Where can people find you?
Steve: LinkedIn is probably the easiest one and I do a little bit on Instagram.
Steve Foley’s social profiles
Christian: I will link all that up. Steve, thanks a lot for your time. It was awesome.
Steve: Christian, lovely. I appreciate it. and I look forward to watching you, probably Greg Louganis in the future.
Christian: That would be awesome. Thank you.
Steve: Thank you.