Control the Controllables: My Interview with USA Olympic Swimmer Margaret Hoelzer

Posted on by jafremow

USA swimmer Margaret Hoelzer is a two-time Olympian and World Record Holder. She won three medals at the 2008 Beijing Olympics – bronze in the 100 backstroke, silver in the 200 backstroke, and silver in the 400 medley relay. Margaret is also a National Spokesperson for the National Children’s Advocacy Center. How did Margaret get in her zone on race day? What advice does she give to athletes? Here’s what Margaret shared with me:


The best advice I have to athletes when I give talks is to control the controllables. You are in control of some things and not in control of others. Control what you can and don’t worry about the rest.

Also remember that you know what you are doing. You have done the race a thousand times….even if it’s the first time you are doing it in a meet, you’ve done it in practice.

Swimming is nice in that it has certain things that will always be a constant…you will always be in a 25 yard, meter or 50 meter pool. The flags will always be in the same place…there will always be a black line on the bottom of the pool…if you get nervous, focus on the familiar things around you, remember that this is something you know how to do and just let your body do what it’s been training to do.

Margaret Hoelzer on the Internet:

Web Site:

Twitter: @MargaretHoelzer


Dr. Jim Afremow is a leading mental coach, a licensed professional counselor, and the author of The Champion’s Mind: How Great Athletes Think, Train and Thrive (Rodale, January 2014.) Though his private practice is located in Phoenix, Arizona, Dr. Afremow provides individual and group mental training services across the globe to athletes in all sports, as well as to parents, business professionals, and all others engaged in highly-demanding endeavors. His website is