Why you should crib this Olympian's trick for easing anxiety

Aug 11, 2016 at 11:14 p.m. ET
Image: Adam Pretty/Getty Images

Michael Phelps launched a million memes earlier this week when he mean mugged a competitor for interrupting his pre-race preparations, but another swimmer has a just-as-memorable ritual he does before every match.

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Canadian swimmer Santo Condorelli flips the bird — seemingly to the crowd — before every race. Does he hate spectators? Nope, the 21-year-old is just easing anxiety.

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It all started when he was a wee swimmer. Condorelli's father and coach, Joseph, gave him a bit of advice when he lost a match to a competitor. "[He said], 'You've got to build your confidence yourself and say eff everybody else that you're racing," Condorelli told the CBC. "He said, 'Every time you're behind the blocks, give me the finger and I'll give it back to you.'"

The gesture has gotten him in some trouble over the years; "I had to write a letter," he said, after inadvertently flipping off some television cameras. "I'm not trying to piss people off. I just put it in the middle of my forehead now. My dad is definitely giving it to me and I can see him from a mile away."

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Giving the finger is like silent swearing — and studies have shown that swearing can ease pain. Plus, there's just something about expressing your emotions outwardly that gives your mind and emotions a break, even if it's only temporary.

"It's a communication between him and I to calm down and get ready," Joseph told the CBC of their ritual. "Racing is about being at peace... he got a lot of his aggravation out with just a really simple 'Give it to the world' rather than keep it internalized. It calms him down on the blocks for sure."

If it helps an Olympian, then it's gotta help you de-stress before that big presentation or meeting. Just give it the finger.

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