Friday, December 3, 2010


So yesterday I mentioned the difference between Gold and Silver Medal usually being so absolutely tiny that it is almost immeasurable. I remembered reading in a conference report about this and was wondering what it was used for in the talk that was given. Here are some excerpts from it and I hope that you find it enjoyable and enlightening.
Pursuing Excellence


But how did they do it? What makes a great athlete? I remember a great Olympic champion who once addressed this question. He named some important factors such as great coaching, good equipment, good athletes to train with, or just pure natural talent. All of these ingredients can go into the recipe for a great athlete, and each will help in its own way. But there is one quality that rises above all, and without it, the athlete is not complete. That ingredient is desire.

The athlete with the greatest desire to succeed will stand a greater chance of reaching his or her goal. The same holds true for the student or the musician or whatever it is that you young men aspire to be. A five-year study of many of the United States’ top athletes, musicians, and scholars has recently concluded that “drive and determination, not great natural talent, led to their extraordinary success.” (Los Angeles Times, 17 Feb. 1985.)

In determined athletes, we can see the difference between knowing and doing. Those who really desire to reach their goals will do whatever they must do in order to achieve them.

My coach taught me a great lesson in my early development as a gymnast. I was leaving for my first national team training camp. Before I traveled to the camp, my coach told me only one thing. He didn’t tell me to learn any new maneuvers at the camp. He didn’t tell me to try to perform my routines better than the rest of the team. He told me that when I returned from that training camp that he wanted to hear me tell him, with all honesty, that I had worked harder than anyone else on the national team.

So I remember making it a point to be the last one out of the gym every day; and that didn’t mean just waiting at the door for everyone else to leave! Also, I remember that at night, when some team members would occasionally relax with their pizza and beer, I would go back to my room and do more exercises.

When I returned home two weeks later, I was proud to tell my coach, “Yes, I worked harder than everyone else.” I didn’t work twice as hard, just a little bit harder. But it was enough to help me to improve greatly. Sometimes, just a little bit is all that matters.

Let’s realize what the margin of victory was in a few of the events in last summer’s Olympics. In women’s cycling, after the 79.2-kilometer race, the difference between the gold medalist and the silver medalist at the finish line was just the length of a tire. In a pressure-packed swimming relay, the difference between the first-place team and second-place team was only .04 of a second. In many of the gymnastics competitions, the difference between first place and second place was as minute as .025 of a point.

The champions didn’t win by running twice as fast, by jumping twice as far, or by scoring twice as many points as their opponents. In many cases they won by just a fraction of a second, a fraction of an inch, or a fraction of a point. Likewise, and more important, the champions didn’t win by training twice as hard as their opponents. If another gymnast trains six hours a day, I can’t train twelve hours a day. Twelve hours a day in a gym just isn’t healthy! But I can train six hours and fifteen minutes a day. This is where giving it that little extra and going the extra mile makes the difference.

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