Len Johnson, Sidney Morning Herald, Australia: Jana Pittman has bypassed modern technology and is relying on new-age techniques in her bid to make the starting line in Athens.
For months Pittman has practised meditation, now it is a significant weapon in her fight to overcome a knee injury, and subsequent surgery, and compete in the Olympic 400-metre hurdles heats on August 21.
Pittman had to be convinced of the benefits of meditation, as did her coach, Phil King. The advocate, however, was credible to both – Debbie Flintoff-King is Phil’s wife, whom he coached to a gold medal in the 400m hurdles at the 1988 Seoul Olympics. Pittman’s burning ambition is to emulate her.
Flintoff-King is also using her experience as a herbalist to provide another avenue for the athlete. She said Pittman was taking herbs which worked on the liver, which would be under stress at the moment, and the lymphatic system.
After some persuasion, Flintoff-King convinced Pittman to go to a one-day meditation clinic conducted by Ian Gawler.
“She wasn’t that keen but she went. I said, ‘Even if you just go to lunchtime’, but she loved it and came back with all the tapes and books.”
Pittman is concentrating on imagery techniques, focusing her mind on the healing process and imagining it proceeding in an orderly flow.
“Had she not done it religiously, it wouldn’t work,” Flintoff-King explained on Wednesday. “But because she’s been doing it for a while, she has confidence in it.”
Flintoff-King had similar experiences herself as she adopted meditation in the lead-up to the Seoul Games. She said it was not something that produced an immediate result, nor was intended to – it was just there when you needed it.
“I did it for two years,” said Flintoff-King, “and I could probably count on one hand the number of times it really worked.
“One was when my sister passed away [just before Seoul].
“For Jana, she’s such an A-type personality, meaning hyperactive. She hasn’t got any flaws but if she had one it would be lack of focus in some areas.
“I think the meditation helps her think about what she’s doing and disregard things going on around her.
What she has been doing now is imagery, imagining the injury healing.”
Meditation is now part of Pittman’s daily routine, along with the icing, the strengthening exercises, the constant treatment.
Flintoff-King said Pittman aimed to complete 20 minutes’ meditation at a time.
“It’s up to Jana. Sometimes you can go in there and 10 minutes is enough. Other times, time has gone by and you wouldn’t even notice, I usually suggest to her to try about 20 minutes minimum.”
Flintoff-King said that because of Pittman’s outgoing personality, anything that made her slow down a little was extremely beneficial.
“All you’re trying to do is clear the head and increase the space between the thoughts,” Flintoff-King said. “That’s a way of looking at it.
“She can just think more clearly. When you’re stressed and worried or hurrying, you forget the minor things. For her, meditation enables her to take a big, deep breath and think clearer.”