ASUNCION May 9 Chilean swimmer Kristel Kobrich
is concentrating on just one race at the Olympic Games in
London, to avoid a repeat of the psychological burnout that
shattered her medal dreams in Beijing four years ago.
Kobrich, a veteran of two previous Games and one of Chile's
medal hopes in London, will take part in the 800 metres
freestyle and give the 10km open water race a miss.
The 26-year-old was 20th in the 800 metres heats in Beijing,
a psychological blow that badly affected her performance in open
water five days later when she failed to stay the course.
"The psychological aspect is fundamental. In fact, at the
time of competing it's all down to psychology because you've
done all the physical work," her Argentine coach Daniel
Garimaldi told Reuters.
"You have to prepare your body so it can respond to the
demands of the mind," he said in a joint interview on a visit to
Kobrich's home city of Santiago.
"We need her to be 100 percent physically so that she can
respond to all the mental demands she makes of her body."
Kobrich is in the final stages of preparation with a daily
routine of six hours in the pool and three sessions a week with
weights in the gym.
"We can improve the psychological part which is where we're
placing a lot of our bets, and in the physical part we're
polishing our competition rhythm, which is more about tactics,"
"I hope to have matured a bit," said Kobrich, the 800 metres
Pan-American champion and Chile's flag bearer as a teenager at
the 2004 Athens Games opening ceremony.
"In those (Beijing) Games we were also in the open water
(race) and that was tough, a learning curve seeking immediate
responses. At the time, it was sad and painful (but) we picked
ourselves up quickly.
"Today I'm in a position to choose knowing I'm in good shape
and that nothing can distract me. I'm going for it."
Briton Rebecca Adlington, the Olympic champion, will be the
favourite in home water in London.
TRACK TO POOL
Kobrich started swimming when she was nine, obliged to get
in the pool because her parents had no-one to leave her with
while her elder sisters went to swimming lessons.
For several years she practised athletics and swimming until
at 13 her coach told her to choose one, and she now holds the
South American 800 and 1,500 metres freestyle records.
"Her rivals aren't in quite as good form as we thought. That
doesn't mean they're not good (but) chances have improved a bit
to fight for (a place on) the podium. Those chances used to be a
long way off," Garimaldi said.
"The possibilities of being among the top three or four have
Kobrich, who left her country nine years ago to train in
Argentina, shares her coach's confidence and smiles timidly when
she talks of her prospects in London.
"Today, we're sticking to the 800, it's a super difficult
race but we're in the top 10. To be in the final would be
historic for me and my country (Chile)," she said.
"You earn the respect of your rivals, who look at you
differently and plan their races accordingly.
"Some go, others come... there's renewal but I'm still
there. I'm proud to have been among the top swimmers for a long
time. Very few can do that."
Kobrich and gymnast Tomas Gonzalez are Chilean fans' big
hopes to see their country's flag raised at a medals ceremony in
Should they succeed, there will be celebrations all over
Chile as there were when tennis players Nicolas Massu and
Fernando Gonzalez won medals in Athens in 2004 and Gonzalez
climbed the podium again in Beijing.
"We're trying to break the mould with individual sports that
are totally amateur, sports in which it's difficult to make a
breakthrough (in Chile)," Kobrich said.
"Only when you're at the top do you get a guarantee of
(financial) support for an annual project which you've been
seeking for a long time."
(Writing by Rex Gowar in Buenos Aires; Editing by Ossian Shine)