Webster credits mentality for Glasgow gold rush
Sam Webster can afford to relax, but not for too long.
Returning from the Glasgow Commonwealth Games with two golds and a silver medal packed in his hand luggage allows him that luxury.
That's why he takes the elevator to an interview on the top floor of the Avantidrome in Cambridge, rather than the two flights of stairs he usually bounds up.
It's also why his car is parked in the velodrome carpark.
Usually he would have biked the short journey to the outskirts of Cambridge, but this is a rare occasion when he gets to drive.
Next week the car will be locked in the garage again as Webster kicks into light training ahead of the BikeNZ Classic and BikeNZ Cup events in Cambridge from September 18-20.
He'll go into that event as a world and Commonwealth champion, and said the improvements he made between the world championships and Glasgow was all in the top two inches.
"Going in, the ultimate goal was to win three golds there," Webster said.
"That's what we'd been training to do, as an individual for me. The team sprint was our priority. We went in as world champions, treating it as a target on our backs knowing everyone else would come at us.
"I had a poor individual sprint at the world championships. It was far from the form I had going in and I don't think I was quite mentally prepared to win a world championship title.
"I'd wanted to do it for so long that my emotions were overwhelming [after winning the team sprint]. I couldn't sit back and say, 'this is awesome, I've achieved one of my life goals', and then reset.
"So I was keen to address that, and that involved a fair bit of work with a sports psych."
High Performance Sport New Zealand psychologist Jason Yuill Proctor worked with Webster to make sure Glasgow went differently.
They looked at how Webster prepared for each race and how he wound down from a win, and the improvements spoke for themselves.
After winning the team sprint in Glasgow with team-mates Ethan Mitchell and Eddie Dawkins, Webster was able to reflect on his success without it affecting his next race.
"I was able to sit back and think, 'yeah, this is awesome. I've just won a gold medal'. But then I could put that behind me and move on to the next race.
"In Colombia I couldn't do that. So I went into the individual sprint in Glasgow with a clear head, and it paid off.
"It was the same before the keirin, and even though I didn't win gold, I'm thrilled with my silver medal."
There can be no doubt as to the high standards this group of cyclists are putting on themselves in the buildup to Rio.
Webster's goal was three gold medals in Glasgow, and he came up centimetres short of achieving that.
He has already identified parts of that keirin final he could have executed better, and said it's important to be critical of his performance if he is to get better.
"After that second race in the individual sprint final, I think [sprint coach Anthony Peden] and I said about 20 words max.
"I knew what I did wrong, and I knew I had to fix it.
"I'm looking forward to seeing our performance review because it gives us things to work on for next time.
"You're aiming for perfection and I didn't get there. I wasn't even close. If we keep pushing for perfection and never get complacent, that's the best thing for us heading towards the Rio Olympics."
Webster and the New Zealand team will take on top riders from Australia, Malaysia and several other nations in the Class One UCI-sanctioned event in Cambridge next month.
From there the team prepare for the 2015 World Cup season, which begins in November.
- Waikato Times