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Olympic Head Games
Dara Torres at the US Olympic swimming trials in Omaha, Neb., July 3, 2008. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

Dara Torres at the US Olympic swimming trials in Omaha, Neb., July 3, 2008. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

Getting to the Olympics — not to mention winning gold there — takes more than worldclass physical ability. As athletes and coaches know all too well, the competitive edge is as much in the mind.

So are the challenges. How does it feel to be U.S. hopeful Eric Shanteau, postponing cancer treatment to swim 200 meters in Beijing? Or China’s star hurdler, Liu Xiang, with the pride of 1.3 billion people riding on his every step?

The head games can be brutal. What is it like to be U.S. swimmer Dara Torres, staging an Olympic comeback at 41, while her coach is home battling a potentially deadly blood disorder? To be basketball star Yao Ming, Team China’s hope against the U.S., whose injured foot became a Chinese national obsession?

This hour, On Point: The minds of Olympians, and what it takes to get to Beijing.

You can join the conversation. What does it take to go for the gold? To win it? Sheer guts? Good genes? A streak of crazy? Have you done it yourself? Do you know someone who has? Who are you pulling for in Beijing? Tell us what you think.

Guests:

Joining us from Beijing is Alex Wolff. He’s a senior staff writer for Sports Illustrated, covering his fifth Summer Games. He takes a special interest in basketball.

Joining us from Stanford, California, is JoAnn Dahlkoetter. She’s a world-class athlete, winner of the San Francisco marathon in 1980, and a sports psychologist who works with Olympic athletes. She’s the author of “Your Performing Edge: The Total Mind-body Program for Excellence in Sports, Business and Life.” She is currently working with 2008 U.S. Olympic marathoner Magdalena Lewy Boulet, now in Beijing.

And joining us from Mars Hill, North Carolina, is Nancy Hogshead-Makar. A U.S. Olympic swimmer, she won three gold medals and one silver at the 1984 Summer Games in Los Angeles. She was a teammate of Dara Torres in the 4×100-meter relay that clinched a team gold in 1984. She’s now a professor at the Florida Coastal School of Law and is a major advocate of gender equity in sports.

Links and Multimedia:

Beijing ’08 – SI.com
Sports Illustrated’s comprehensive coverage of the Beijing Olympics.

“After the Games”
An interactive multimedia feature from The New York Times’ Play Magazine, in which “eight Olympic legends discuss their greatest athletic moments and life after competition.” Also, “The State Requests That Citizen Liu Win Gold,” looks at the intense pressure on China’s star hurdler Liu Xiang.

Beijing Beat – Newsweek
Newsweek’s Olympic blog keeps an eye on what’s happening beyond the sports.

The Atlantic’s James Fallows
Always worth reading, Fallows is on a long-term assignment for The Atlantic, first in Shanghai and now Beijing, and has been blogging about the run-up to the Olympics.

Beijing 2008
The official site of the 2008 Beijing Games.

Plus, listen back to On Point’s show on China and the Olympics in April, live from Shanghai.

And remember these?  See a YouTube video of some great Olympic Moments:

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