The evergreen Bulgarian sprinter Ivet Lalova-Collio has enjoyed a long and successful career highlighted by a European 100m title and four Olympic appearances. Now aged 35 she collects many of the vital lessons learned from her lengthy time in the sport and shares them with the younger version of herself.
"Your athletics journey will be full of peaks and troughs. You won’t always win gold medals or break records. There’ll be times of heartache, physical pain, injuries and suffering but one thing I can guarantee is: it will get better with time.
"You will mature and flourish into a more secure, confident individual and one that even at the age of 35, will feel physically and mentally so much stronger than at any stage of your career.
"Back as a child athletics was so much fun. Remember when you attended a concert in the main square in Murcia, Spain as a 17-year-at the European Youth Olympic Festival. Do you remember the joy you felt dancing all night long? Back then you were so carefree. Try and hold on to these feelings for as long as possible because everything will change. You will go on to win the sprint double at the 2003 European Junior Championships Tampere, Finland. Your success will elevate you to a new level but as expectations rise, so do the pressures. Please hold on to those fun times and memories, Ivet, and enjoy every minute.
"If I could offer any other advice, I’d say over time you will learn that you cannot be liked by everyone and, over time, you will be okay with that. Now I know you always like to please and that you struggle with the thought of hurting others. But because you struggle with self-confidence and worry about what others think this can cause you mental anguish. Again, don’t worry, it will take time, but you will overcome this. You will find ways to work on it.
"You will later work with a mental coach and discover many empowering things inside of you. You will read books on the subject and by training your brain you’ll reach that state of feeling just how you want to feel - which is so important in both training and competition.
"I’d also say make sure your surround yourself with supportive and positive people.
"You will have your struggles and sometimes you will have around you destructive people who want to hurt you, but who want to stay close. Well, my message is: get rid of these people.They bring only negative energy. Some of them will question your age and say, when you hit the age of 30 you are too old. But you will prove them wrong. You will feel amazing at 35. Don’t concern yourself with small, stupid things because over time you will learn to take control and that is an empowering feeling.
"Finally, Ivet, remember you are a curious child with many other interests outside of athletics. You will maintain these other passions and this will be important. You love singing and music. You love writing. Keep up all these external interests because I guarantee it will bring you energy during those times of struggle on the track. And, you never know, one day you might write your own story!"
Steve Landells of the IAAF