World 800m silver medallist Nick Symmonds has proved a wily campaigner during a lengthy and high-profile career in the sport. The five-time US outdoor champion offers his words of wisdom.

1. The cream always rises to the top

“Coach [Kelly] Sullivan shared these words of wisdom with me going into the 2008 Olympic Trials. I called him and told him I was so nervous that I could hardly sleep or get through each day. 

“He reminded me that I was one of the favourites to make the team and then said: ‘I don't know how or why, but championships have a way of separating out the athletes that are mentally and physically strongest. Somehow the cream always rises to the top and you, Nick, are most certainly part of the cream’.

“I slept like a baby after hearing those words.”

Nick Symmonds 2013 ()

Symmonds won 800m silver at the 2013 World Championships in Moscow

2. It's just running

“Coach Sam Lapray has been my best friend and mentor for the last 13 years. In all of the good and the bad times, he is by my side reminding me that it’s just running. I love this sport and have a lot of fun with it, but in the big scheme of things, it's just running. 

“It's not family, not curing cancer, not feeding the world, it's running around in circles. I think too often pro athletes can lose perspective and forget what is really important in life. I've been lucky to have coach Sam in my life encouraging me to be humble in victory and defeat.”

Nick Symmonds 2013 ()

Symmonds thanks world champion Mohammed Aman for a great race

3. First or last across the finish line, be the first to shake everyone's hand

“My mom [Andrea Symmonds] used to tell me this before every one of my races in high school. Actually, come to think of it, she still tells me this before all of my professional races! 

“I truly believe my mom could not care less what the outcome of each race is so long as I am a classy competitor. Win or lose, I try to walk around after every race and thank my competition for a great run.”