Elite athletes use mental strength to overcome physical obstacles

Courtesy of Red Bull Media Service Team

Broken neck and loss of sight no barrier for likes of heroes Don and Mancina.

Life can throw tough challenges in the way of elite athletes with career-threatening injuries often leading to victories and titles that looked extremely far away at their lowest points.

Mental strength is key to getting back to form and, often, a level better than they had produced previously. Here are some tips from a selection of top athletes, who came out strong the other side.


IRONMAN world record holder Tim Don broke his neck whilst training but, with the aid of a halo, the Briton made a full recovery and even ran the Boston Marathon through impressive mental determination.

Don’s manager Franko Vatterott revealed: “No matter what challenge you have in life, it’s all about the perspective. His perspective is not that I am stuck in this halo, it’s that I’m lucky to be alive and I’m going to use this opportunity to train harder and smarter than I ever have before.”


Pro surfer Mark Mathews landed on a reef feet first and hard in 2016, resulting in serious multiple injuries that saw him airlifted to hospital. The lasting nerve damage led him to think that his career was over, however he remains optimistic that mental strength will win out on the road to recovery.

The Australian, 35, explained: “I think the best thing to do is focus on the fact that things could be worse. I have friends in wheelchairs that would give anything to have my injury, so I refuse to mope around. That would be disrespectful.”


Rachel Atherton has just won her sixth UCI Mountain Bike World Cup downhill title, however it has not always been plain sailing for the Briton as she has battled back from serious injuries to prosper.

As part of Red Bull’s Pain vs Reward series, the 30-year-old said: “You have to go through those injuries to come out the other side and be a more calculated rider. Learning about yourself is probably the biggest thing that injuries can teach you.”


American skater Dan Mancina is a remarkable human being, who adapted and carried on with his passion of skating after losing 95% of his sight – something that would leave many people downhearted.

The inspirational Michigan native revealed in Out of Frame: “I’m not thinking about being blind, only how I’ll set the goal high for other blind people to show them what’s possible. I may have lost my sight, but through skateboarding, I’ve gained a vision. I want to share that with the world.”


Tim Don on Red Bull TV

Mark Mathews on RedBull.com

Rachel Atherton on Red Bull TV

Dan Mancina on Red Bull TV




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