How do athletes remember their achievements?

Today I would like to talk about speed skating. Not only because the Dutch are amazingly good at it, but also because I like to speed skate a bit myself. I have even entered a few races, with proper skates, and a tight suit. Having a memory like mine requires careful documentation, though, because when I see a picture of myself on skates it is hard to tell at which race it was taken, or which personal record I was trying to crush. So I solved it by making a spreadsheet to keep track of the dates, the personal records, and the pictures of those memorable races.

After our Dutch speed skating champions returned from the Sochi Winter Olympics, I started thinking about how they would deal with this problem: How to remember a race? Is winning the answer? Do they remember a race better if they won? Or do they remember it better when they almost won, but finished in second place? And races where they made a terrible mistake, will those be remembered?

But there are other ways to specifically cue the sporting memory: in my Career-On-Ice I have changed my outfit often enough to distinguish between races: usually it holds that a faster looking suit matches a better Personal Record. Can that be one of the reasons sports teams change their outfit every year?

I bet the best cue for remembering an achievement is a medal. Look how happy they are! These tangible, generative memory cues will make sure that, for example, Sven Kramer remembers not only those 6:10,76 minutes of his 5000M race, but also the rest of his Olympic adventure. A picture says more than a thousand words, but for cuing your memory I think nothing beats a piece of well-deserved gold.

Mendel on Ice
Here I am trying to break my record in Eindhoven on the 500M, December 7 2010.
Some of the Dutch speed skate winners pose with their Olympic medals.
Some of the Dutch speed skate winners pose with their Olympic medals.

 

Sven Kramer receives a gold medal from King Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands for his achievement on the 5000M.
Sven Kramer receives a gold medal from King Willem-Alexander of the Netherlands for his achievement on the 5000M.

 

Mendel

About Mendel

Mendel Broekhuijsen has a background in Industrial Design, with both Bachelor and Master degrees obtained from Eindhoven University of Technology. His graduation project about the Future of Nostalgia was concluded with the design of an application that enables people to create a personal collection of memory-inducing music. He continued to work on his passion for the value of digital media in his PhD project, supervised by Elise van den Hoven & Panos Markopoulos, which he completed with his defence on October 22, 2018. Since February 2018 he works as Senior Innovation Engineer at Qwiek.

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