Pajala's victory over anxiety

01 June 2010 09:55

Magdalena Pajala was one of biggest surprises in the Swedish national team past winter. But only few know that she suffered not long ago from a performance anxiety.
But 22-year-old from Piteå has taken a help of therapy and regular conversations which meant that she found her mental security. "My difficult years only made me stronger "says Pajala in an exclusive interview with NSD.

What is performance anxiety

Performance anxiety is a familiar concept for many young athletes in most sports. High demands from either themselves or their environment has cracked many talents over the years. 
Such feelings belonged long time to Magdalena Pajala. Her high school studies were sometimes a struggle with inner demons.
"A few years ago it was tough, second year in high school was the worst. I was always afraid of what everyone else would think about me if I did not perform well. I had very high demands on myself, "says Madalena Pajala.

Into the world elite

However, last year she suddenly received a star status after the breakthrough. She participated both at the Olympics and at the Tour de Ski, and captured several top positions in the World Cup races and national championships at home.
"I have never received so many hugs in my whole life, "says Pajala with a laugh.
She has difficulties to understand that she is an idol and a role model for many children.
"I'm totally shocked "she says, shaking her head.
This is precisely what she had dreamed about during all those difficult years. "My goal in last season was to collect points in a World Cup race. Olympic Games were not in my picture and to be qualified there was a fantastic surprise, "says Pajala the NDS.

Skiing for myself

However, the road to success has been complicated and is certainly a story that many young people can learn from.
"I had very high performance anxiety. Now I have learned that I am skiing for my own sake, because I think it's fun, "says Pajala and continues:
"It is important to understand that it is the same person no matter what happens in the skiing. It sounds so simple, but it can be difficult to get it into his head. Finally I got help and started to walk and talk with a specialist. I was lucky, it's important to talk about such problems. Now I feel much mentally stronger."

Stronger after setback

Pajala is has become grateful for the battle she fought earlier in life.
"I'm glad I had a heavier period, it has made me so much stronger, "she says and smiles.
Also last winter offered tough challenges. When she took over the lead on the second leg of the Olympic relay, and was not in shape anymore.
"I thought it would be OK if I just hang on the others. But pretty quickly I came back to reality (laughs). I guess I have to realize that I need several years of training before I'm at that level.
Sweden finally ended fifth in the relay and medal hopes vanished already at Magdalena Pajala's second leg. She had lost 57 seconds on leader.
A performance that could break someone. But not new, strong Magdalena Pajala.
"A few years ago it would have been really hard, and the first feeling when I crossed the finish line was disappointing. But I got over it in about an hour later I could see that I actually had a good performance." The next big goal is the World Championships in Oslo in February.
"If everything goes as it should I will do anything possible. I could even be on the podium in Oslo, but we'll see ..."

Contributed by Kjell Erik Kristiansen, langd.se. Original article HERE.