Athlete Tries Hypnotism in Quest for Olympic Gold U.S. shot-putter Adam Nelson, a two-time Olympic silver medalist, is willing to try anything — legal — to win gold at this summer's games in Beijing. That includes sports hypnotherapy, in which he visualizes success in the shot-put circle.
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Athlete Tries Hypnotism in Quest for Olympic Gold

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Athlete Tries Hypnotism in Quest for Olympic Gold

Athlete Tries Hypnotism in Quest for Olympic Gold

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American shot-putter Adam Nelson is working to qualify for the Summer Games, and he's been letting us follow his efforts. Nelson has won Olympic silver medals twice. He really wants to win a gold, and he's willing to try anything - anything legal, that is - to do it, including a deep and profound sensory comprehensive subconscious power experience.

NPR's Tom Goldman explains that.

TOM GOLDMAN: Once again, that's a deep and profound sensory comprehensive subconscious power experience. It's how sports hypnotherapist Pete Siegel described the session he had with Adam Nelson a week and a half ago in Southern California.

Mr. PETE SIEGAL (Sports and Peak Performance Hypnotherapist): As with every breath you take, you feel yourself just easily gliding all the way down.

GOLDMAN: Six-foot, 265-pound Adam Nelson is stretched out on a bed at the Westin Hotel in Long Beach. It's the day before his first big competition of the outdoor season, and Pete Siegal has hypnotized Nelson. The session gets more and more intense, with Siegal leading Nelson through a powerful imaginary throw.

Mr. SIEGAL: You're in your set position. I'll count from three down to one, tap your forehead. You'll begin your move and when you fully extend, explosive express thrust, release the shot out of your hand, you'll exclaim your key word once. All right, get ready. You're in your set position, three, two, one, now.

(Soundbite of shout)

GOLDMAN: After nearly 40 minutes, Siegel pulls Nelson out of hypnosis. Nelson is quiet but says he feels great. Siegel, an Energizer Bunny of optimism with a thick, bodybuilder's physique, is amped up.

Mr. SIEGAL: And this year I'm going to put my ass on the line and tell you he's going to win the gold medal, okay? Why? Because all the experience he's been through. All the training he's done. And now he knows himself at a level to where he can access the full degree of power that he knows he possesses.

GOLDMAN: Nelson believes in Siegel's program of deep, sensory visualization. But on this weekend of the Adidas Track Classic, Nelson laughs when Siegel makes his gold medal prediction. Not because he doesn't believe it, but because he knows there's a long way to go.

Nelson says he's throwing at about 80 percent of his abilities because of recent disruptions: His wife left town for a summer internship; he changed his throwing technique. More immediately, the cross-country trip to California took a toll on Nelson's raging metabolism, thanks to a skimpy diet of airline peanuts.

Mr. ADAM NELSON (Shot Putter Athlete): I think I probably lost seven pounds on the trip out here. I felt really skinny.

GOLDMAN: It's now the day of the track meet, and Nelson has reclaimed his weight, thanks to six full meals the day before. He had breakfast this morning with two of his fellow shot-putters, Dan Taylor and Christian Cantwell. They were friendly and talkative, but that will change as they get closer to the Olympic trials at the end of June, where only three will qualify for Beijing.

Mr. NELSON: The next five weeks, with what's on the line, will challenge any friendship because it's really them or me. And in that situation, it's really hard to always be a good friend.

Unidentified Man: Adam Nelson improved to sixty-seven ten and a quarter in round three.

GOLDMAN: There were six rounds in the Adidas competition; Nelson trailed Christian Cantwell the whole way. On his last throw, Nelson went through his usual hopped-up, pre-throw routine.

Mr. NELSON: Come on, let's go. Come on.

GOLDMAN: He walks out into the grassy area where the shot lands, called the sector, ripped offs his top shirt, flings it to the side, and storms back to the circle to throw.

(Soundbite of cheering)

GOLDMAN: It was his best throw of the competition, 69 feet, four inches. But he finished second to Cantwell - and wasn't too happy as he walked to the bus that would take him back to his hotel.

Mr. NELSON: I'm really quite grumpy right now. I think the lesson here is I really need to refine my schedule and develop my routine because that just - right now, I'm just not feeling very sharp or crisp.

GOLDMAN: Still, and I'm quoting the ever-positive Pete Siegal here, 69 feet, four inches is darn good when you're at 80 percent effectiveness. Siegal predicts Nelson will throw over 71 feet at a meet this weekend in New York on the way to that ultimate power experience in China.

Tom Goldman, NPR News.

ADAMS: And you can see a video of Adam Nelson under hypnosis at

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