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Mind over matter: insights from elite athletes overcoming adversity to achieving gold for improving junior hospital doctor training
  1. Yasmin Ackbarally,
  2. Emma Wilson,
  3. Rakesh Patel
  1. School of Medicine, University of Nottingham, Nottingham, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr Yasmin Ackbarally, School of Medicine, University of Nottingham, Queens Medical Centre Campus, Nottingham, NG7 2UH, UK; yasmin.ackbarally1{at}

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The recent 2022 Commonwealth Games offer a timely reminder about the important relationship between failure and success, outcomes that have important significance in medicine and medical education. The stories of cyclist Laura Kenny, swimmer Adam Peaty and gymnast Jake Jarman describe challenges with mental health, physical injury and personal tragedy, however, all achieved at least one gold medal at the championships. Kenny described struggling with motivation, disclosing that a crisis of confidence after a difficult year led to thoughts of her quitting prior to her triumphant performance. Peaty reported losing his spark, and faced backlash from heat of the moment comments following his 100 m defeat. However, he was able to learn from his losses, and go on to win gold in the 50 m breaststroke. Jarman revealed how after sustaining a serious fall, he had to contend with fear-driven memories during practise. Despite this he went on to secure not one but four gold medals. In sport, failure and success are often seen as ‘two faces of the same coin’, but in medicine and medical education, failure can lead to shame and shying away from trying again. While there are similarities between junior hospital doctors (JHDs) and elite athletes, there are important differences in the way they train and practice, which offer novel insights on how medical training could be reformed and potentially improved for the better.

Both JHDs and elite athletes undergo years of often gruelling training to become highly skilled in their respective fields. This process inevitably involves individuals making significant sacrifices and maintaining dedication towards end goals, be it a gold medal or a certificate in completion of training. Both have to perform well under high pressure, with little or no margin for error.1 Athletes have to cope with various different stressors during competition,1 …

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  • Contributors YA and RP thought of the conceptual idea for the article. YA produced the first draft. All authors discussed structure and contributed to comments, feedback and revisions.

  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; internally peer reviewed.