From Competition to COVID Frontline

5 Lessons from the Prince of Pommel

After years of dedicated training and an impeccable work ethic as an elite gymnast, Australia’s Prashanth Sellathurai was more prepared than most when Covid hit his workplace. As a doctor redeployed to the Covid ICU ward in the hard-hit UK, the 35-year-old Commonwealth Games gold medallist relied on his experience in the gym to get him through the relentless grind of the pandemic.

“It was intense. With the level of workload, it was quite easy for people to become stressed then burned out, but luckily that didn’t happen to me,” he said. “I think elite athletes are well equipped for high pressure environments. More often than not, we tend to be the calmer ones. I think we tend to get flustered a lot less at work. After competing in front of 30,000-plus people and being scrutinised by the world media, working as a doctor doesn't feel daunting.”

Sellathurai, who has had two gymnastics skills named after him by the International Gymnastics Federation (FIG), said the sport had given him the skills to dig deep and recover after setbacks.

Reflecting on his time in gymnastics, Sellathurai lists 5 things he has learned through the sport:

1. Focus your energy
“Things very rarely go to plan, so I've learnt to not waste energy on things I can't control and focus on things I can alter.”

2. Accept the outcome
“I've learnt to work towards goals and to try not to be attached to the outcome, positive or negative. When things don't go as planned, I've learnt to accept this and allow nature to take its course.”

3. Use failure to succeed
“In gymnastics, failure is part of the path to success. I'm accustomed to challenges, and I don't let it deter me.”

4. Be part of the team
“Working as part of a team since the age of five, I've learnt to respect and appreciate everyone's input and try to use the contribution to help the common goal.”

5. Show up
“Discipline is important. Learning and gaining experience in medicine can take a lifetime. After training as a gymnast for the last 30 years, I am not daunted by such a long-term project. I've learnt that regular amounts of time dedicated to study and practice over many years feels more manageable than trying to make unrealistic gains in a short period of time.”