Michael Phelps has finally revealed what he was listening to when he made “that face” prior to the 200m butterfly semi-final in Rio 2016. It’s inspired us to find out how Olympians get into the zone.


Whether you’re recovering from the weekend or just need some class tunes to motivate your workout today, try the music that has propelled Britain’s top athletes (and one American) into medal-winning glory.


1. Michael Phelps, American swimmer, most decorated Olympian of all time

Fact: His headphones are almost as ubiquitous as his swimming goggles.

On music: “There’s no rapper today more inspiring than Future. His optimism is in his name.”

Pre-race tune: Future’s Stick Talk


2. Mo Farah, British distance runner, the UK’s most successful track athlete

Fact: Farah was separated from his twin brother for 12 years.

On Music: “For the hours leading up to the race, I try to keep things as normal as possible and I’ll listen to some tunes. Depending on my mood, it’ll be some Tupac or maybe Dizzee Rascal. If I want something a bit more chilled, I’ll put on some Somali music. The older stuff from the 1970s and 1980s has a really good beat to it. People sing about the country, about the history and the culture. Then there’s K’naan, the rapper and poet who recorded Wavin’ Flag, the official song used for the Fifa World Cup in South Africa.”

Pre-race tune: Anything by Tupac Shakur


3. Laura Trott, British cyclist, the UK’s most successful female Olympian

Fact: Born a month early with a collapsed lung, she was advised to take up sport to help with her breathing.

On music: “I tend to just download the UK top 40 and just listen to that on mix. Because if I listen to the same stuff, if I make an actual playlist, it starts to bore me by the time race day comes around.”

Pre-race tune: Bruce Springsteen’s No Surrender


4. Dina Asher-Smith, British sprinter, fastest woman in the UK

Fact: She is the first British woman to run the 100m in under 11 seconds.

On Music: “Life can be lonely on the circuit and I don’t always have my coach John alongside me. It seems that my music can serve as many purposes: at times as a companion, often as a means by which to wind down and relax and at other times as a rhythmic cue to get my legs turing over just that little bit faster.”

Pre-race tune: Ed Sheeran’s Thinking Out Loud


5. Sir Bradley Wiggins, road and track cyclist, most decorated British Olympian

Fact: A true Mod, music aficionado Wiggo owns around 12 guitars. Rumours that he is setting up a band abound.

On Music: “Music to me is not just something you listen to. I’ve always been gripped by it. A song will always take me back to where I was when I heard it for the first time.”

Pre-race tune: Anything by The Jam or The Who. More recently he has become a Grime convert. At a gig during Rio 2016 he was seen nodding to Golden Boy, by London star Elf Kid.