Why These Olympians Believe Jet Lag Could Actually Help Them Compete
Some U.S. Olympic skiers and their coaches think jet lag could act as a cure for performance anxiety.
Instead of traveling early to Pyeongchang to acclimate to the time change, ski-jumpers are actively “chasing” jet lag, The Wall Street Journal reported.
They were in Germany for the World Cup on Sunday. They arrived in Seoul on Tuesday, took the train to Pyeongchang on Wednesday, and competed in qualifiers on Thursday. On Friday, they participated in the opening ceremony — and Saturday is the first medal event.
The athletes believe that one of the worst things you can do before a jump is overthink. So, they are actively pursuing a mental state in which things are a bit cloudy — leaning in to jet lag, if you will.
“You let muscle memory take over,” U.S. Olympic ski jumper Kevin Bickner explained, “and sometimes that’s better than thinking about what you need to do.”
When leaping hundreds of feet off a tower and onto a snowy slope, sometimes the brain can get in the way.
Ski jumping is a mentally grueling, physically technical sport that one athlete likened to suicide.
“The closer you come to committing suicide without committing suicide, the better you’re going to be,” Jeff Hastings, a ski jumper who competed in the 1984 Olympics, told the WSJ.
While the strategy may not be effective for those who need mental acuity and clarity while traveling, embracing jet lag could sharpen skills and increase performance for those who compete on muscle memory.