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We caught up with Nikki Mocke and reflected on her experience at the Olympics in 2008. Although 12 years has passed, Nikki remembers it as if it was yesterday. She shares the sacrifices she made to compete against the best, emphasizes the importance of being enough without a medal and invites aspiring Olympians to join her for tea.

Q: What year did you attend the Olympics?
A: Beijing Olympics 2008

Q: What event did you compete in?
A: K4 500m with Jen Hodson, Carol Joyce and Michele Eray.

Q: What was the training leading up to the Olympics like?
A: The training was tough, physically, mentally and emotionally. We spent a lot of time away from home at training camps; Port Edward in Natal was an annual camp and Hungary became our new home for months at a time. The year of the Olympics I was away for 8 months on camps and racing. A typical training week of training was 10 paddling sessions, 2 runs, 3 gyms and 100 pull ups and 100 push ups after every morning session. In a nutshell rolling over in my sleep would wake me up cos of stiffness and sore muscles.

Q: What was it like competing amongst the worlds top athletes?
A: It was exhilarating, terrifying, challenging and somehow wonderful all rolled into one!

Q: What is your favorite memory from the Olympics?
A: I have so many memories, I remember I had sweaty palms and a dry mouth the entire time we were in the Olympic village, your body is just on edge the entire time and you quickly realise everything you have sacrificed and worked towards is going to come down to a quick moment.

The Olympic village was incredible, just how you imagine, all the athletes in a perfect world and everything is FREE! Gym, eating hall, hospital, laundry, Hair dresser, vending machines and more! The eating hall was a highlight, all you can eat ANYTHING 24 hours a day with famous athletes and legends all around. Saw Federer, Nadal, Usain Bolt and Williams sisters in one day!

Seeing my family again after such a long time was amazing, they came to watch and it was awesome to have them there and show them around the village too.

The gym was something else, all highly trained athletes doing “ridiculously athletic things” that you will probably only see once in a lifetime in pockets all over the gym!

The opening ceremony was very special, and almost overwhelming, thousands of people all celebrating the fact they were actually there, the Olympics, with their story of how it happened for them, and now the job at hand, to race for your Country at the OLYMPICS! Beijing put on a fantastic event, from an athletes perspective they did a phenomenal job.

The fact that we actually made it, and a sisterhood that formed between the 4 of us, even though at times it had felt impossible, we actually did it!

Q: What was the best part about competing at such a high level?
A: It’s amazing to see where you can take your mind and body, and when you think you can’t go anymore, you actually can. For us qualifying was probably harder than the Olympics, but to make the final at the Olympics and come a close 7th was a dream come true.

Q: What would you say to anyone who want to be Olympic Athlete?
A: I would say, come and have a tea with me… There’s lots to chat about… It all start with a seemingly impossible dream/desire and the guts to say it out aloud, “I want to be an Olympian”, took a while to come out of my mouth.

But along the way I have lived by these sayings:

1) “Your existence is not based on your performance” – you are not alive only to compete. One day your body will give in and then what do you have? Make sure you still have friends, family and a life to “come back to” once you have raced your heart out, make sure you have real purpose and are making a real difference in life!

2) “A gold medal is a wonderful thing, but if you can’t be enough without it, you will never be enough with it” – goes with the one above; I have boxes of dusty medals and trophies in the roof of our house which I don’t even recognise, at the time they mattered so much, but when I look back I remember the friendships and the growth experience more than the positions/medals. Of course winning is the goal, but just not at any cost.

3) “You have to live like it’s happening” – “It” being your ultimate goal – there are so many things that will try to stop you from achieving your goal, you need to behave as if it’s happening. I bought a sprint canoe (before i had the money for it), moved house to be closer to training and went to a World Champs all because I pretended like I was already well on my way to the Olympics. Meanwhile I was nowhere near ‘there’ yet. It was YEARS before anything actually happened but I filtered my decisions through the fact that I was serious about a goal and lived like it was happening.

4) “Be the best you that you can be” – When you think about it long enough the best you can do is to be the best version of yourself, humans are seldom satisfied, so stop comparing yourself to everyone else and make sure that everyday you are a little bit better than the day before. If you compare yourself you never feel fast enough, or good enough, but if you are focused on being the best version of yourself that’s all you can do, and that’s enough.

Watch Nikki’s Olympic final below. South Africa are in lane 7, Nikki was in seat 3 in the K4.