What Creates A Great Champion?

With the Olympics getting ever closer there seems to be more and more attention placed onto ‘what creates a great champion?’  I know little of professional sport; however I am utterly stunned at the commitment shown by athletes at the top of their game. The incredibly long growling hours of what is often boring repetition. After winning the Beijing Olympics, Rebecca Adlington told the Guardian that she got up at 5am and was training for four hours a day, six days a week, doing 10 pool sessions in total! On top of that she had physiotherapy, massage and strength training. During the week she would get home at 7.20pm, grab something to eat, watch a bit of TV and then crash. Her life was all sleeping, training, driving and occasionally finding time to eat.

It’s all very impressive, but for me the section of her story that really stood out and made me sit up and take notice, was before her public success while she was at school. Rising at 5am to swim and doing homework in the back of the car! I guess it’s easier to maintain that level of commitment once you have lifted an Olympic gold medal, but to continually get up at 5am, throw yourself in a cold pool of water, when you don’t when (or if) it will pay off and your peers around you are living a very different ‘easier’ life, is, to me amazing.  To exchange instant pleasures for delayed gratification is surely one of the main ingredients of a champion.

I suspect that many people (and I include myself in this often) are fully engaged in microwave thinking – a deep belief that compensation should immediately follow any effort. Champions, leaders and those that are highly successful are different. They earn these labels by perfecting their competencies. If you look at champions, that label took years of hard work and sacrifice to achieve, with little or no apparent compensation along the way.  So with ‘New Year’s Resolutions’ or ‘Goals’ prominent in many people’s thinking at the moment, good questions to ask ourselves might be “Am I more interested in pleasure, or gratification?” “Am I more focussed on pleasure-based activities that deliver short and sweet payoffs or on gratification-based activities that take longer to achieve but deliver long and meaningful payoffs?” The choice is ultimately our own.

Wishing you huge success for the year ahead,

P.s. If you really want a shock, the Guardian published Rebecca Adlington’s full hour-by-hour training schedule online. Just scroll to the bottom of this link: http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2009/jan/10/rebecca-adlington-swimming

By |2011-01-06T11:12:37+00:00January 6th, 2011|Champion|3 Comments


  1. Javez Khan 10/01/2011 at 9:20 pm - Reply

    Running a full time family & business & having a full time changing mindset is very challenging. It demands plenty of hard work & sacrifice. My most valuable commodities include time, health & money & I am learning to sacrifice huge chunks of these in order to have the life that I want & have the mindset of a champion.

    At the moment it feels like there is little compensation but I beleive that in the long term there will even more success for me & for those that I support. This is the choice I have made & I know I am already different & reading Rebecca Adlington’s story makes me more determined.

    Thanks to Rebecca & all the other great Olympians & thanks to the brilliant Kate Mccartney for the reminder.

  2. Sundeep 11/01/2011 at 11:12 am - Reply

    What an insightful piece. I’ve never really looked at it
    like that before…we’re so bombarded with messages about change,
    and we live in such an instant culture that it’s very easy to fall
    into the trap that change comes easy or should be easy. Perhaps if
    we had more realistic understanding of the process in our own minds
    we would be more likely to stick with it.

  3. Richard Carter 17/02/2011 at 12:21 pm - Reply

    Wow, I can only reiterate the comments left above, particularly Javez’s thanks for reminding us of the fact we have a choice. Although something I hope and believe I have and know is that instant gratification is short lived, a nicely written piece and a smart reminder of true champions, focus on the long term rewards and appreciate the little things on the way.

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