Kibwé Johnson on Being an Olympian: The Power of Presence

Kibwé Johnson on Being An Olympian: The Power of Presence

My guest this week is Kibwé Johnson. Kibwé is a two-time Team USA Olympian in hammer throwing. He competed at the 2012 London Olympics and the 2016 Rio Olympics. He first qualified for the Olympics thanks to a stellar year in 2011 where he crossed the gold standard benchmark of 80m for the hammer throw. He parlayed that achievement into a fascinating journey preparing for the London Olympics. At the Games, he became the first American to make the finals in hammer throw since 1996.

What I really enjoyed about talking to Kibwé was how deeply he thinks about the mental and psychological side of sports. It’s actually no surprise when you consider that he also has a degree in sports management and coaching. Today he is a performance coach with his company and consultancy FORTIUS Performance and coaches track and field.

We had a wide-ranging conversation about his career, competing at the highest level, what practice looked like, and what it was like working with Dr. Anatoliy Bondarchuk – one of the greatest ever Olympic champions and coaches in the hammer throw. We went deeper into the lessons he has learned through his career in track and field and how he is applying them now in business.

Please enjoy!

Full Episode

Guest Links

Show Notes

  • What are the physical and mental attributes that make a great hammer thrower? (02:50-5:00)
  • What drew Kibwé to hammer throw specifically? (05:01-06:41)
  • Why was Kibwé drawn to the challenge of something he was not initially the best in? (07:00-07:57)
  • What was the difference between the day-to-day practice in college vs as an Olympian? (07:58-10:38)
  • Kibwé’s origin story. (10:40-12:00)
  • When did Kibwé start to really believe that he could reach the top? (12:02-13:25)
  • Is success rooted in identity? (13:26-13:45)
  • How did the practice regime switch after making the deliberate decision to work toward the ultimate success? (13:48-15:45)
  • What role did mentors play in Kibwé’s life and career as an athlete? (15:47-17:36)
  • Did senior athletes inspire Kibwé and help short-cut his learning curve? (17:40-18:40)
  • Inspiration from Al Oerter. (18:46-20:36)
  • How much of the coach and sports management role played a part in his success? (20:58-22:40)
  • How much does mental strength really have an influence on success? (22:43-23:47)
  • What are the challenges people face the most when trying to maintain mental strength? (23:48-25:06)
  • Techniques to stay present. (25:10-26:58)
  • Does acceptance play a role in mindset? (27:00-29:00)
  • Is there something such as being physically gifted? (29:15-30:07)
  • The importance of breathing. (30:20-31:55)
  • Breathing should be part of everyone’s strategy. (31:58-32:23)
  • When did Kibwé become aware of the role breathing should play in his training and focusing techniques? (32:24-33:23)
  • What was Kibwé’s practice regime as an Olympic athlete? (33:24-36:18)
  • What is the difference between strength work and technique? (36:19-36:56)
  • Can deliberate practices be broken down in hammer throw? (36:57-38:40)
  • Does Kibwé focus on a variety of different techniques every day? (38:41-41:04)
  • Getting out of your comfort zone. (41:21-43:28)
  • Overthinking. (43:30-43:57)
  • The Olympics. (43:58-46:57)
  • More about Anatoliy Bondarchuk. (46:58-47:39)
  • What is the next step after making the Olympic team? (47:40-49:25)
  • What is the timeline after being chosen for the Olympic team? (49:30-50:35)
  • Peaking. (50:36-51:50)
  • What’s the downfall of an athlete peaking prematurely? (51:52-52:21)
  • Training for peaking. (52:21-53:13)
  • Why do certain countries excel at hammer throwing? (53:20-55:35)
  • How big is the impact of the sport being a professional sport vs recreational? (55:36-59:20)
  • Kibwé’s grandmother’s influence. (59:33-1:00:25)
  • Did Kibwé’s grandparents play a big role in his motivation? (1:00:26-1:02:21)
  • How did Kibwé measure his progress? (1:02:22-1:03:30)
  • Did Kibwé’s perspective of success change? (1:03:31-1:04:57)
  • What might it have been like to prepare for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and then stopping because of COVID? (1:05:11-1:07:55)
  • What is next in Kibwé’s career? (1:07:56-1:09:50)
  • Lessons from track and field that can be applied to business. (1:09:51-1:11:30)
  • What would Kibwé tell the 18-year-old version of himself? (1:11:34-1:12:45)

Selected Links from the Episode

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