The hurt of underperforming at an Olympics affected Australian half miler Peter Bol so much that it almost ruined his debut Games experience and he is now determined to ensure he never feels that way again.
The 23-year-old, who will contest the 800m at the #SUMMERofATHS Grand Prix in Canberra this weekend, enters 2017 with re-newed confidence and belief that his Rio Olympic experience will lead to greater things.
Entering camp last year in Rio, the St Kevin's Amateur Athletic Club athlete was fully fit and expecting to progress to the semi-finals, just a month after clocking a new personal best of 1:45.41 at a meet in Belgium.
Naturally, his heat was a tactical affair and featured two of the best runners in the world in Ethiopian Mohammed Aman and Pierre-Ambroise Bosse from France.
Bol placed sixth out of the seven runners, and it hurt - a lot.
“When you sit down and think about it, it’s quite painful,” Bol explained.
“To think you’ve been put in the best place, in the best shape of your life and given the opportunity to be in the most competitive Games only to get run out in the first round.
“It’s a bittersweet feeling and my only thought is I’ll do all I can to not have to go through that feeling again.
“My performance at Rio almost shattered my whole experience, luckily Rio was full of distractions which was exactly what I needed after reflecting on the race and watching both the semi-finals and final from the stands.
“That was painful.”
With a nonchalant and relaxed approach to his caper, Bol prides himself on his ability to enjoy his sport, while recognising the immense opportunity he has been given.
Growing up, Bol spent four years in a refugee camp in Egypt before his family arrived in Australia after fleeing their home in Sudan amidst civil war.
“I certainly do believe I'm more relaxed than others, that's a combination of understanding that you actual perform better in a relaxed state and it’s my actual personality,” he considered.
Two years ago, Bol moved from Western Australia all the way across the country to Victoria, joining equal 800m national record holder Alex Rowe to be coached by Justin Rinaldi.
So far, the results, along with an Olympic debut, suggest that the bold move was the right one and his faith in Rinaldi as a mentor has only exponentially developed since arriving in Melbourne.
The construction management student is now the tenth fastest Australian ever in the 800m, just behind Simon Doyle and Bill Hooker, but believes there is even faster races on the horizon.
“There is so much to say about Rinaldi, what stood out to me the most is his work ethic in ensuring that his athletes are in the best possible position when it comes to competition,” Bol said of his coach.
“Justin works tirelessly hard and devotes so much time towards the sport.
“The thing I like about Justin is that he will have everything in place and if you disagree he is happy to humble himself enough to adjust, whether that be the session, competition or anything – even if he knows he’s right, which 99 per cent of time he is.
“The solution to that I’ve learnt is to put my complete trust in Justin and not worry too much about the sessions.
“In a way, Justin has been a coach, a mentor, manager, a friend and now a photographer – he is ‘the guru’ and greatest value.”
Given that Rinaldi is still undecided on what type of 800m runner Bol is, boasting impressive personal bests in the 400m (47.20 sec) and 1500m (3:42.35), it can only be assumed that there is so much more to come before his peak is reached.
“At this stage, we are still trying to work out what type of an athlete Peter is – is he a 400/800, just 800 or 800/1500?” Rinaldi explained.
“He has improved dramatically at both ends over the last 18 months, and I’m not sure we’ve ever had an athlete in Australia break 47.0 (in the 400m) and 3:45 (in the 1500m) before.
“Pete ran 3:42 this year, so the next goal is to break 47.”
Rinaldi is a big picture coach and says he prefers to be doing all that is necessary to keep progressing towards the goal than become too obsessed with getting the perfect result in every race.
“The goal is to be a top-eight athlete, so we are always working towards that, meaning that we’ll take some risks in races, going out hard, to see what we need to work on to make the step up to world-class,” he explained.
Naturally, there are a number of things that Rinaldi is working on with Bol as the pair target championship racing at world championships, Commonwealth Games, and the Tokyo Olympic Games.
The faith Bol has in Rinaldi as a mentor has been returned in spades by the coach who believes his athlete can also join the 1:44 club alongside his training partner Rowe.
“He needs to become more rounded as an athlete and learn to run from the front or come from behind,” Rinaldi said.
“He made a few errors in Rio that prevented him from making the semi and I know he won’t make those errors again.
“Yes, Pete will run 1:44 in the next 12 months.”
Bol will race against his training partner and a very strong line-up at the #SUMMERofATHS Grand Prix in Canberra this weekend that also includes Josh Ralph (NSW), Jordan Williamsz (Vic) and Dylan Stenson (SA).
It's likely he and Rowe will be looking to dip under the qualifying time of 1:45.90 for the upcoming London world championships with the meet just a few weeks out from the national championships in Sydney.
“Alex is a man of many talents and I’m grateful to have him as a training partner,” Bol said.
“He plays a mentor role and also a great friend, it’s more than just training together, we get along pretty well on and off the track.
“There is so much I’ve picked up from him just over the year since I started with Rinaldi and that’s understandable. He is great value and an equal Australian record holder.”
Psychologically Bol has improved too over the last year, particularly since returning from his ordeal in Brazil, he is confident in his ability and progress towards being competitive with the very best in the world.
“I rank myself highly in Australia and that is because I’m confident that as an athlete I’ve grown in belief and strength.
“Physically and mentally I’ve learnt from my overseas experiences and that part was missing last season, this season it’s here and I enter every race to win it, without taking the field for granted of course.”