With London 2012 filling the newspapers and TV schedules at the moment, sports fans all over the world are finding new enthusiasm for events that normally wouldn’t spark the slightest interest (I found myself screaming at the TV during the Women’s 58kg Weightlifting when 5 minutes previously I’d never even heard of it).
There’s a lot to be learned from the dedication and commitment of top level athletes, even if you’re not a sports fan. I think you could pick almost any Olympian and find inspiration in the story of how they got to the top of their sport and if you can apply even a small percentage of that courage and determination to your career or business role then maybe you can emulate some of their success in your own field.
Here Are Five Great Examples:
Dame Kelly Holmes
Although Kelly Holmes had been a promising athlete when she was a child, she took up a career in the Army. Holmes watched the 1992 Summer Olympics on television, and seeing an athlete whom she had competed against, and beaten, decided to return to athletics. For several years she combined both athletics and her employment in the Army, until increased funding allowed her to become a full-time athlete in 1997.
By Athens 2004, Kelly Holmes had endured a long battle with a series of leg injuries followed by a diagnosis of clinical depression. At those Olympics she become only the third woman in history to do the 800m and 1500m double, and Britain’s first double gold medallist at the same games since 1920.
What can you learn from Kelly?
Never give up on your dreams.
Denise Lewis won Gold in the Heptathlon at Sydney 2000. She ended day one of the competition in third place, a considerable improvement from a low of eighth place after a poor performance in the high jump. Day 2 saw her clawing back up the points table, into first place by 63 points with one event to go, the 800m.
Lewis ran with heavy strapping on the lower part of her left leg for a calf and Achilles tendon injury, her aim to stay close enough to the race leaders to maintain her points slight advantage. Lewis crossed the line in third place , not knowing if her time was enough to retain first place. After an agonizing wait as the individual points were calculated she learned that she had won gold.
What can you learn from Denise?
Apply consistency to whatever discipline you’re working on and don’t let small setbacks defeat you.
Rebecca Adlington won two gold medals at the 2008 Olympic Games in the 400m and 800m, breaking a 19 year-old world record in the 800m final and becoming Britain’s first Olympic swimming champion since 1988, the first British swimmer to win two Olympic gold medals since 1908 and Great Britain’s most successful Olympic swimmer in 100 years.
The swimmer initially struggled with the expectation of being an Olympic champion and in 2009 Adlington admitted she suffered with the expectation placed on her ahead of the World Swimming Championships in Rome.
What can you learn from Rebecca?
Don’t try to live up to other people’s expectations. You have to do it for yourself.
While Ennis has an impressive athletics career already with European and World Championships to her name, as well as holding several British and Commonwealth Records, London 2012 is her first Olympics. With a BBC film calling her the face of the games, there was nowhere for Ennis to hide and all eyes were on her; every aspect of her build up and training was picked over in the press and anything other than Gold would have been a national disappointment.
And she did it! Setting personal bests and national records in several of the events along the way, including a fastest ever 100m Hurdles by a multi discipline athlete.
What can you learn from Jessica?
Learn to block out all external distractions and remain focussed.
Growing up, Helen always participated in a variety of sports. As a junior she ran cross-country internationally, and was part of the England Satellite Squad for Hockey. After University she began working as a teacher and if it wasn’t for an advert she saw in 2008 for a new scheme called Sporting Giants, she may well still be a teacher today.
Sporting Giants aimed to discover contenders who could be fast-tracked into sports, particularly rowing, handball and volleyball. The basic criteria was that candidates must be tall, a minimum of 6ft 3in for men and 5ft 11in for women, be between 16 and 25 and have some sort of athletic background, all of which described Helen perfectly, so she entered.
After being involved in rowing for just 4 years Helen, along with partner Heather Stanning,
won the gold medal for the women’s coxless pairs at London 2012, the first ever Olympic gold medal for British women’s rowing.
What can you learn from Helen?
Don’t be afraid to try something new – it might just suit you!