The image of Olympic competitors, like swimmer Michael Phelps, preparing for an event is iconic. Phelps, usually sitting on the pool deck donning a parka with his cap on and headphones covering his ears, jams to tunes as he focuses on an upcoming event. The preparation for some athletes competing in the 2014 Olympic Games in Sochi is no different.
But what about during competition?
Gold medalist Jamie Anderson, a snowboarder for Team USA, was seen taking out a set of buds after her win in the slopestyle event Sunday.
A spokesperson for the Olympics told TheBlaze that athletes are allowed to listen to music during competition.
Media Relations Manager Sandrine Tonge with the International Olympic Committee told TheBlaze in an email that competitors listening to music “has never been an issue.” She also noted that the Olympics does not track sports that are more likely to have athletes listening to music or not.
Seeing the use of headphones on the field of play though is surprising. As the Associated Press put it in reference to Anderson’s earbud-wearing win:
Maybe winning gold while rocking out is to be expected in a sport the Winter Games adopted from the X Games. And sure, there’s always been a wonderful connection between music and winter sports. What’s a gold-medal winning figure skate if not the perfect combination of dynamic athleticism and the perfect soundtrack?
Still, it’s fun to think about where those earbuds might make another appearance here in Sochi. Canada’s Jonathan Toews sliding into a faceoff with an iPhone strapped to his arm? Visible under the skin-tight suit of Dutch hero Sven Kramer as he glides for 10,000 meters around the rink at the Adler Arena Skating Center? Four heads bobbing up and down in unison to the sounds of the beat as a four-man bobsled team slides down the track at Sanki?
Could the use of music give athletes a competitive edge?
Some have said that they could’t perform as well without their musical mental preparations beforehand.
“If I forgot my headphones or my phone died then I’d be really, really upset,” one of the youngest snowboarding athletes at the Olympics Seamus O’Connor, competing for Ireland, told Reuters. “It would definitely change my performance if I didn’t have my music.”
American luger Katie Hansen told CBS Sports she gets out her pre-competition jitters with a Beyonce dance session.
“Honestly, I’m in my own world,” Hansen said. “It doesn’t matter who’s staring, I’m still going to dance.”
The popular YouTube channel ASAP Science tackles the question as to whether music can actually have an effect on competition.
Music with an uptempo beat has been found to help athletes in repetitive, high-endurance events, like skiing or speed skating, by synchronizing their movement to a faster tune.
It can also help adjust a person’s mood and confidence.
“Even during competition, music can narrow an athlete’s attention, diverting the athlete’s sensations of fatigue,” ASAP Science’s host said.
Watch the two-minute video about the relationship between music and athletics:
All in all, “science says make a pump-up playlist full of your favorite songs at the time and blast the competition away,” ASAP Science said.
Alternatively, there’s the opposite tactic of short-track speed skater Elise Christie, representing Great Britain, who said she walks up to these headphone-clad athletes and strikes up a conversation.
“A lot of people just sit there in the zone, and I generally will go up and talk to them,” Christie told BBC Sport. “I think that makes them think I’m not very nervous. ‘Oh God, she’s fine.’ And it’s because I am fine.”