As we are in the middle of the Olympics, I keep thinking these days about human beings’ infinite ability to overcome themselves, to improve, to reach even further every time.
It is a fact that behind elite sports there is manipulation, doping, money, big investments and vested interests in certain countries. However that’s not the view I am interested in. What really moves me is the willpower that many people have to work, no matter what for a goal, engaging their mind, body and emotion in it, ready to pay whatever price it takes. That price means sacrifices, including emotional ones. They have to be away from their homes quite a lot, separated from family and friends, working truly hard and long hours every day from their early ages, being present & focused at all times in order to achieve their highest performance.
Living at that level of dedication is hard work. I find fascinating that most of these sports people talk about their sacrifices with pride & joy because they feel they’ve been given the opportunity to do what they love the most. They can get up every day feeling enthusiastic about the work that is waiting for them, a job that completely fulfills them, and their final reward will be the next competition, a new chance to better themselves, willing to get there a second sooner or a centimetre further. That’s genuine commitment.
The coaches also better themselves by planning success strategies that bring out all the potential of these sports people. The engineers work on the design, the materials and the performance of a new type of swimming suit, ball, racquet or trainers. The endocrinologists, dieticians and chefs suggest the best menus & diets for each champion. All of them are working behind the ones who will be wearing the medals afterwards (Redes magazine dedicated an interesting article to all these in its nº 28 issue, in Spanish).
At the end of the chain we find the visible link who lets himself be guided, investing effort & dedication, hours of training & enthusiasm, competing and showing his face in the name of all the ones who are working in the background. He becomes the banner of many others, representing his team and also a whole country.
And there we are sitting in our armchairs at home, identifying ourselves with those fighters. We admire them and support them. We cheer for their victories and suffer their defeats. We cry with them when they are listening to their national anthem at the podium or when they have to give up due to an injury after all the effort… We feel proud of their achievements and share their sorrow. We even feel champions as well because maybe we’ve been faithful supporters for so long, because we are compatriots or because we feel close to them for whatever reason.
We are not elite sports people but we do know what effort is and we do work to better ourselves everyday, setting new goals and moving forward. We’ve also won many times and on other occasions things didn’t work out the way we planned. Failure is always there, like a shadow, but satisfaction prevails most of the time. It is always worth it to face a challenge and to go for it. Being part of something so great feels wonderful. How could anyone not be proud of participating in an Olympics even if they go back home without a medal on! Just being there is already an award. It means that you’ve been one of the best, that you’ve worked hard and that work took you to the place where only a few can be. Winning is wonderful but enjoying the journey is even better. Loving your job and giving yourself to it, taking notice & listening to those who are there to help you & support you, having the opportunity to be better every day and resting every night feeling satisfied for that job well done, knowing that there is more of the same to come tomorrow… That’s something that money cannot buy!
I have a very dear friend. We’ve been friends since we were born (well, actually since I was born, as she came to this world 23 days before me). We were around 20 at the time and, without giving any further details about the situation, all of a sudden my friend shouted: “WE ARE CHAMPIONS!”, meaning we could achieve anything we wanted if we were really going for it and believing that we could get it. She was so right! Over the years we've always used that motivational slogan every time we were facing new challenges or generating new goals: “Just remember that you are a champion!”. Saying those magic words out loud would lead us to laughter and that into cheering each other: “Of course, I can do it!”. It was a proper anchorage, no doubts about it. We were so wise! That’s how we've achieved many of the things we went for (by the way, my friend was a champion that night, of course).
Quite often we don’t put on all the medals that we deserve. We don’t remember the achievements we’ve reached. We don’t congratulate ourselves for all the knowledge we gained from our defeats. Are you aware of all the things you’ve done? Do you realise how much you’ve learnt and how much you’ve grown? We are champions and many of us don’t even know it!
I would like to congratulate myself today and congratulate you too. WE ARE THE CHAMPIONS, so very well done!
"It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better.
The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat".
Theodore Roosevelt (Excerpt from the speech "Citizenship In A Republic", delivered at the Sorbonne, in Paris, France on 23 April, 1910).