Australian cyclist Freddy Ovett has managed to rediscover an all new love for sport.
The British-born 28-year-old rider currently rides for L39ION, a UCI Continental team based in LA, but it’s his activity away from cycling that’s garnering some attention. On Sunday (September 25) he will be running the Berlin Marathon, his second event after running last year’s LA marathon in 2:48:55. What made that feat more impressive is that he got the entry just 48 hours before the race started.
But Ovett’s love for running has taught him so much about what sport truly means and it has also helped him to rationalise his performances in relation to his own self-worth. Above all he has learned that he is much more than a “place on a results sheet”.
There’s no denying just how crazy, and challenging, taking part in marathons is alongside a professional cycling career. It’s also a question Ovett is becoming very familiar with – why?
“Because no one is making me do it, apart from myself,” he told Mirror Sport. “Simply put – it sounds a bit odd – but I enjoy running. It’s something that gives me an outlet from my day to day life as a pro cyclist.
“It complements it quite well and the nature of racing these mass start events, and being surrounded by like-minded people who all have their own little goals and journeys to get to that point, is infectious.
“It’s something that I got hooked on last year, when I did my first one, and it just gives me the opportunity to spend a little time on something else sporting wise and have a goal that isn’t focused on winning or being on the podium.
“From a cycling context that’s kind of all that matters for me and, if I don’t do that, then it’s a major disappointment and it hasn’t gone well. It’s nice to just enjoy sport for what it is – just being healthy and challenging yourself.”
“I’m more than just a place on a results sheet”
One of the main challenges for an athlete is the pressure. The pressure to perform, the pressure from others and the pressure placed on themselves.
Each time they compete they are putting themselves in a position, pushing themselves to the limit, that many of us can’t really relate to. For many it can be overpowering and learning to deal with the pressure is something Ovett has certainly been able to relate to.
“When I was younger I definitely became overawed by those moments, those big races or big events that you’ve trained a lot for,” he said. “I would look at it almost in a negative mentality that it was too much and I didn’t enjoy those moments, even though I came through them ok.
“But now I’ve learned to embrace them and really enjoy the build-up and the pressure of trying to do something special. With running, for me, it’s even more special because I’m not supposed to do well as I’m not running that much.
“People are intrigued by that and I’m hoping it inspires other athletes and people to try new things even if they’re not supposed to be doing it or want to do it. I’ve found that nine times out of 10 it goes a lot better than you expect.”
It’s so easy to get wrapped up in your results as a sportsperson, and it’s also hard to identify yourself away from a sport you are completely devoted to. That’s also something Ovett is learning with his marathon ambitions.
As Berlin approaches his main aim is to do better than last time, nothing more, as well as soaking in and enjoying the atmosphere that such an event brings. By channelling that energy into something other than cycling it’s allowed him to completely re-evaluate his self-worth.
“At a time cycling was completely my identity and I would think of results as being my identity,” he added. “The thing that running has given me is that I’m more than just a place on a results sheet.
“People think more of you going out on the podium and the fact that you’re just an athlete, but it’s inspiring to see someone chasing something regardless of if they catch it or not. I’ve done that since I was eight years old, so sport has given me the basic values of being healthy, chasing after goals and trying to better yourself every day.
“The result is almost an afterthought. The fact that you’re trying to go after it is the special thing.”
“My dad is a huge influence”
Ovett also has the benefit of plenty of sporting expertise close to him to learn from. If his surname sounds familiar, then it probably is to British sports fans.
That’s because he is the son of Steve Ovett, who competed for Great Britain in middle-distance running, winning gold medals at the 1980 Summer Olympics in the 800 metres, and the 1986 Commonwealth Games in the 5000 metres. With someone like that in your corner, Ovett is forever grateful for what his dad has given him.
“My dad is a huge influence, first and foremost on me as his son and as a person, and secondly as an athlete,” he said. “Having someone that’s achieved all the things that he did in my corner, and just to speak to him on a daily basis even though we live very far apart these days, it’s something that I’ve always had as an athlete since I was eight years old. It’s something I highly appreciate and use to my benefit.
“It’s nice to be able to speak to another athlete about things and how I’m feeling – what doesn’t feel good, how should I do this. It’s an enormous string to my bow going into big events when you’re able to draw on the knowledge of someone who, 99.9 per cent of the time, got the job done in the most excruciating pressured environments you can ever imagine.”
For now Ovett’s focus is on enjoying his marathon in Berlin. But it won’t be long before he’s back competing at the UCI Gravel World Championships in Italy two weeks after.
But with his newfound focus on his sports, it ultimately doesn’t matter what the results may be. It’s the fact that you tried to achieve something that makes its mark.
- Freddy Ovett is an official Supersapiens ambassador. Supersapiens is t he world’s first glucose management system designed for athletes. Powered by the Abbott Libre Sense Glucose Sport Biosensor, the sensor connects via Bluetooth to the Supersapiens app for real time glucose visibility. Supersapiens empowers athletes to show up to the start line optimally fuelled, manage their in-race fueling to sustain peak performance, and refuel correctly to recover after their events. Find out more at www.supersapiens.com