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Monday, October 15, 2012
Success lessons from Olympic heroes
The Philippine Star
August 13, 2012
Bull Market, Bull Sheet column
By Wilson Lee Flores
I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. ---II Timothy 4: 7
In the dust of defeat as well as the laurels of victory, there is a glory to be found if one has done his best. ---Eric Liddell
What are the many priceless success lessons we can learn from Olympic heroes? Here are some:
1.Team Work---The 1992 USA basketball “Dream Team” led by Michael Jordan, 2012 U.S. basketball team and come-from-behind 2012 China gymnastics men’s team all won on the strength of their dynamic team work.
(The gold medal-winning USA basketball "Dream Team" standing on the podium at the Sports Palace of Barcelona City, Spain on August 8, 1992 during the Barcelo Olympics. Agence France Presse photo)
2.Perseverance---Asian sports star and entrepreneur Li Ning started training in gymnastics at eight years old, then was selected for the China national team at age 17. He kept training and winning until at age 21, he won 6 medals at the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics (3 of which were golds).
American swimmer Mark Spitz started competing at only age 6, began training at age 9 under swimming coach Sherm Chavoor who mentored seven Olympic medal winners. Spitz was only 15 when he competed in his first international competition, the 1965 Maccabiah Games (open to all the world’s Jews) in Tel Aviv where he won four golds.
At age 22, he won a then unprecedented seven gold medals (surpassed only by Michael Phelps in 2008 Beijing) at the 1972 Munich Olympics. In 1972, Spitz set new world records in all seven events in which he competed, a record that still stands.
Li Ning and Mark Spitz are only two examples of what journalist Malcolm Gladwell’s 2008 book Outliers referred to as the "10,000-Hour Rule", based on a study by Anders Ericsson.Gladwell claims this as key to success in any field, that practising a specific task for around 10,000 hours can make people world-class successes like self-made billionaire Bill Gates in computers and the Beatles in pop music.
(Gymnast Li Ning winning in the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics)
American swimmer Mark Spitz started competing at age six, began training at age nine under swimming coach Sherm Chavoor, who mentored seven Olympic medal winners. Spitz was only 15 when he competed in his first international competition, the 1965 Maccabiah Games (for Jewish athletes worldwide) in Tel Aviv, where he won four golds.
At age 22, he won a then-unprecedented seven gold medals (surpassed only by Michael Phelps in 2008 Beijing) at the 1972 Munich Olympics. In 1972, Spitz set new world records in all seven events in which he competed, a record that still stands.
(The great swimmer Mark Spitz with his record-breaking 7 Olympic gold medals)
Li Ning and Mark Spitz are the only two examples of what journalist Malcolm Gladwell’s 2008 book Outliers referred to as the “10,000-Hour Rule,” based on a study by Anders Ericsson. Gladwell claims this as key to success in any field, that practicing a specific task for around 10,000 hours can make people world-class successes like self-made billionaire Bill Gates in computers and the Beatles in pop music.
3.Aim for perfection---Nobody’s perfect, but we should all still try. Romania’s Nadia Comaneci aspired for excellence and won three gold medals at the 1976 Montreal Olympics at only age 14, also becoming the first gymnast to ever win a perfect 10 score (she got a total of seven perfect 10 scores). She also became the youngest ever Olympic gymnastics all-around champion.
(The amazing Nadia Camaneci of Romania)
4.Overcome crises and skeptics---Michael Phelps was age 9 when his parents divorced and he was in the sixth grade when diagnosed with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). In the 2008 Beijing Olympics, his teen idol Australian swimmer Ian Thorpe said it was highly unlikely for Phelps to win eight gold medals. Phelps stuck Thorpe’s remarks on his locker as motivation, he then disproved Thorpe other experts by winning a record-shattering eight gold medals.
In the 1988 Seoul Olympics, U.S. athlete Greg Louganis shocked TV viewers worldwide by accidentally slamming his head into the springboard while completing a dive in the preliminary rounds, resulting in a concussion. Amazingly, he recovered and courageously went on to recover and went on to win the gold medal.
(Photo below of Australian swimmer Ian Thorpe, who wrongly predicted that Michael Phelps couldn't win eight gold medals in the 2008 Beijing Olympics)
(Sports Illustrated magazine had Michael Phelps on its August 2008 cover, wearing all eight of his gold medals---a new world record---in a shot similar to the iconic 1972 photo of Mark Spitz, who wore seven Olympic gold medals.)
In the 1988 Seoul Olympics, US athlete Greg Louganis shocked TV viewers worldwide by accidentally slamming his head on the springboard while completing a dive in the preliminary rounds, resulting in a concussion. Amazingly, he recovered and courageously went on to win the gold medal.
(Photos of diver Greg Louganis)
5.Success is the best revenge---In the 1981 Oscar-winning film Chariots of Fire, it tells the tale of Cambridge-educated British Jew Harold Abraham who run to defy anti-Jewish racial prejudice (the other story was that of Scottish Christian Eric Liddell who run for the glory of God). Abraham won gold in the 100-meter sprint in the 1924 Paris Olympics by breaking the Olympic record.
A black sharecropper’s son Jesse Owens of the U.S. stunned the world and defied Nazi Germany’s racist Adolf Hitler by winning four gold medals and becoming the biggest star at the 1936 Berlin Olympics.
1960 Rome Olympics gold medallist Muhammad Ali overcame racial prejudice, political controversies as well as arrest and stripped of his boxing title for refusing to join the U.S. military due to his opposition to the immoral Vietnam War.
Ali wrote in his 1975 autobiography that he threw his Olympic gold medal into the Ohio River after being refused service at a “whites-only” restaurant and fighting with a white gang. Years later Ali was given a replacement medal during the 1996 Atlanta Olympics in Atlanta where he lit the torch at the opening ceremony.
After overcoming many crises, Ali would win many victories to become a legendary world heavyweight boxing champion whom Sports Illustrated in 1999 crowned as “Sportsman of the Century”.
(Harold Maurice Abraham)
A black sharecropper’s son, Jesse Owens of the US stunned the world and defied Nazi Germany’s racist Adolf Hitler by winning four gold medals and becoming the biggest star of the 1936 Berlin Olympics.
In 1960, Rome Olympics gold medallist Muhammad Ali overcame racial prejudice an political controversies. He was arrested and stripped of his boxing title for refusing to join the US military due to his opposition to the Vietnam War.
Ali wrote in his 1975 autobiography that he threw his Olympic gold medal into the Ohio River after being refused service at a “whites-only” restaurant and fighting with a white gang. Years later, Ali was given a replacement medal during the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, where he earlier lit the torch at the opening ceremony.
(Muhammed Ali Art work below by Gary Tymon)
After overcoming many crises, Ali would win many victories to become the legendary world heavyweight boxing champion whom Sports Illustrated in 1999 crowned as “Sportsman of the Century.”
6.Lose with dignity---China’s legendary track superstar and world’s best hurdler Liu Xiang lost in the 2012 London Olympics. He knocked over the first hurdle, injuring his right ankle and inflaming an Achilles tendon injury which in 2008 ruined his medal hopes at the Beijing Olympics.
Despite the shocking fall, Liu stood up and painfully hopped on his left foot all the way down the remainder of the track in a symbolic completion of the race. He then stopped to kiss the final hurdle and was taken away on a wheelchair.
Simon N. Ricketts of The Guardian said: “A cracking bit of Olympic spirit. Hurdler Liu Xiang, despite injury, goes back to complete the 110 meter hurdles.” Trinidad and Tobago’s former world sprint champion and ESPN sportscaster said: “The 110 hurdles isn’t as fun without Liu Xiang. Always thought he was amazing to watch.” BBC quoted Liu’s winning competitor Great Britain's hurdler Andy Turner saying: “In my opinion, Liu Xiang is the greatest hurdler ever.”
(Olympic spirit: Despite his shocking fall, Chinese hurdler Liu Xiang stood up and painfully hopped the remainder of the track in a symbolic completion of the race)
7.Winning beyond gold and glory---2012 London Olympics chief and former athlete Sebastian Coe said of Michael Phelps after the latter won a record 19th Olympic medal: “I think you can say it is self-evident that he is the most successful. I am not sure he is the greatest.” I agree with Coe, because I personally believe the greatest Olympian was the heroic Scottish runner and international rugby athlete Eric Henry Liddell.
Liddell was one of two athletes whose stories became the excellent movie Chariots of Fire. Even officially atheist China called him “China’s first Olympic champion” due to his birth, work and death in that Asian country.
A devout Christian, Liddell made world headlines in the 1924 Paris Olympics for refusing to race on a Sunday because it was the Sabbath day and he was forced to withdraw from his favorite event---the 100 meters.
Though unfavored in the 400-meters race, Liddell wanted to compete. As he prepared near the starting blocks, an American slipped a piece of paper in his hand with the Bible verse from 1 Samuel 2:30 saying: "Those who honour me I will honour." Liddell ran with that piece of paper in his hand. He won and broke the existing world record with a time of 47.6 seconds.
(An extraordinary man who gave his whole life to God and others, Scottish athlete Eric Liddell may be the greatest Olympian of all time)
Instead of seeking success after Olympics glory, Liddell went to war-torn China to work as a missionary and following in the footsteps of his father. He worked as a chemistry and sports teacher for a boys school.
When the Japanese armies invaded, he sent his wife and kids to Canada but he stayed in Tianjin City to continue his mission. Once in 1938, Liddell heard that a wounded Chinese soldier lay helpless in a temple 20 miles from the mission hospital. He cycled the rough terrain to help him and found another injured soldier who had survived a Japanese execution. He made a makeshift cart to push both men to the hospital.
When Liddell was detained at an internment camp, he worked tirelessly---helping the elderly, conducting Bible study, teaching kids lessons or organizing sports. In a prisoner exchange bargain, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill arranged for his liberty, but Liddell selflessly gave up his freedom to let a pregnant woman leave instead.
Liddell became sick inside the prison camp in 1944 and died on February 21, 1945 at age 43. He never saw his third child, Maureen Liddell.
A fellow prisoner, Stephen Metcalfe, later wrote about Liddell: “He gave me two things. One was his worn-out running shoes, but the best thing he gave me was his baton of forgiveness. He taught me to love my enemies, the Japanese, and to pray for them.”
He was an extraordinary man who gave his whole life to God and for others; I admire the Scottish athlete Eric Liddell as the greatest Olympian of all time.
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