The roar of the home crowd at the London 2012 Games is helping to spur athletes on - but also causing some members of Team GB to feel the need to apologise.
Sports Psychologist at the University of Wolverhampton, Professor Andy Lane, says the most consistent performer across all events is the supportiveness of the home crowd at the Olympics – and this is leading to some extreme emotions among competitors.
Gold medal winners such as Jessica Ennis, Mo Farah and Andy Murray have thanked the crowd for their overwhelming support, while those achieving bronze or silver, such as rowing pair Mark Hunter and Zac Purchase, have apologised for not clinching the top spot on the podium in their post-event interviews.
But what is the psychology behind this? Professor Lane, from the University’s School of Sport, Performing Arts and Leisure, says that it could be that the volume and support of the crowd emphasises the importance of the event.
Professor Lane says: “We are experiencing some remarkable performances at the London Olympics. The consistent performer across all events is the supportiveness of the crowd.
“The British are notorious for good fans; our soccer fans travel across the world supporting country and clubs; the cricket barmy army, and so on.
“What we have seen at London 2012 is how loud and supportive they can be when we achieve success.
“Comments from athletes at London are also consistent with this idea; on one hand, gold medal winning athletes thank the crowd; athletes achieving less than a gold, silver in some cases, apologise. We have seen athletes provide sincere and heart wrenching apologies for not achieving gold.
“One possible reason is that the crowd emphasise the importance of the event; if there was any doubt, the volume of crowd noise acts as a reminder to soul search for extra effort to get more out of yourself; in short, an athlete’s self-worth could be tied exclusively to performance in the Games.
“When self-belief is so polarised, winning will lead to exhilaration, and defeat to desolation.
“The second possible reason is that athletes feel that winning a gold medal is akin to delivering a Christmas present for your child, and in a way, the athlete feels he or she has let the child down.
And what could be the effect of the roar of the crowd as we continue into the second week of competition?
“I think we can expect more highly energised performance; athletes are giving their all and as a consequence, we can expect to see extreme emotions depending on the result.”
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Andy Lane is a Professor of Sport Psychology at the University of Wolverhampton. He is accredited from the British Association of Sport and Exercise Sciences (BASES) for scientific support and research and Chartered Psychologist with the British Psychological Society. He has authored more than 100 peer refereed journal articles and edited two books.