Tom Boonen and the power of forgetting.

Boonen at Tour of California. photo twisted spoke

“I forget my defeats quickly.”

That bit of sports psychology was presented by classics monster Tom Boonen of Quick Step.

He said plenty of things in his latest interview about his season goals and the fast approaching Omloop Het Nieuwsblad but the one important and revealing thing that stuck out in an otherwise formulaic interview were these five words:

“I forget my defeats quickly.”

That’s the summation statement of a star athlete because it’s a mandatory for any pro at the top of his profession. “I forget the last play” is the best answer of any NFL Pro-Bowl cornerback. It’s the same answer for a playoff-bound hockey goalie and it’s a given for the best baseball relief pitchers in the business.

To be on the top of your game, you have to instantly and irrevocably forget your last mistake to continue to perform at the highest level. You have to immediately erase that Fabian Cancellara rode away from you in Paris Roubiax. You must destroy all memory of the touchdown pass you just got beat on, the power play goal you just gave up, the home run they slammed in the bleachers to win the game.

You must have selective amnesia or you are screwed, career over, your head messing with your body, forever replaying the endless beating, getting dropped, scored on, taken deep, the wide receiver doing his victory dance on your ass in the end-zone.

“I forget my defeats quickly” are the words you hope to hear from Tom Boonen if you’re Quick Step manager Patrick Lefevere. The words the entire nation of Belgium needs to hear and the words that Fabian Cancellara doesn’t want to hear.

That is the sound of confidence, fuck last play, last goal, last race, last season because I am back and nothing will stop me from winning.

Those five words are far more important that “the knee feels better” or “my preparations have gone well” or “the team is really strong this year.” It’s the same words Jonathan Vaughters wants to hear Christian Vande Velde say. “Yeah, I crashed a bunch last year, so what? I gonna kick your ass now.”

Short term memory is the mastery of athletic performance. Mind control, psychological training, positive imaging — whatever you want to call the high price optimization of mental forces — all that was summed up by Tom Boonen. There are sports psychologists making six figures simply because they’re skilled at embedding a few positive thoughts that boost performance.

This is the surest sign yet that Tom Boonen is ready for the classics, mentally and physically. If he gets beat, then so be it, but the cause, the indictment, the failure won’t be because he second-guessed himself.

If you’re going to beat Tom Boonen in on the hard-man cobblestones, then you must be stronger physically because he has no doubt in his mind he’s as strong as you. So forget that weakness.

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  • beev

    Can't agree wholly with your assertion. Simply "forgetting" defeats suggests that you have not learnt from them. Have a look at this simplistic model – https://mail.google.com/mail/?hl=en&shva=1#se… – for this purpose, consider C=Complain=Forget….

    • http://www.atwistedspoke.com TwistedSpoke

      David, that statement doesn't rule out learning from the loss. It's only to say that at a certain point it's damaging to dwell on the defeat. Mentally and phsyically you have to move on. It's alos a question of confidence — the great ones don't sit around replaying their weaknesses. Matt

  • http://www.mauricio-soler.com FanDeSoler

    Well, I hope he doesn't forget too much: like how he sat in the back of the bunch eating while Spartacus sped off w/ the lead, or how he blamed everyone else in the group for letting him go. Or how at Flanders, rather than just sitting on the strongman's wheel he tried, again and again, to drop this proven rider showing no signs of weakess. I think in order for Boonen to have a chance he needs this attitude, but even if he has the right cards he's gotta' know how to play 'em.

    So can you imagine VDV saying?: “Yeah, I crashed a bunch last year, so what? I gonna kick your ass now.”
    bwwaaahaaahaa (insert rolling-on-floor-laughing emoticon here). I think Vaughters is the only one in Slipstream who would consider such an attitude (ex-Garmin Cozza excluded).

    • http://www.atwistedspoke.com TwistedSpoke

      Good points as always. I miss Cozza — that was a loss for Garmin, me thinks. We'll find out what Boonen has pretty soon. Matt

  • tranquilo

    Good commentary. Also pulling for Boonen this year. Like to see gladiators at the top of their game for the monuments. Thor will likely be sharing chase duties at PR & RVV this year, which will indirectly "help" Boonen. Nevertheless, no matter how you spin it, it will take a mythical amount of effort and equal parts luck to topple Spartacus.