Reflections on London 2012

In Editorial Column by Chris Ritter0 Comments

It’s that time again. Every four years it happens. The world’s elite assemble to put on their best performance after years and decades of preparation. As a coach, trainer and athlete it’s like an extra Christmas.

Even though I enjoy all the sports and really do appreciate all types of athletes and their respective disciplines – swimming is by far my sport of choice. It’s the main sport I did growing up and coached as well.

Going into these Olympic Games the hype was that Ryan Lochte was going to supersede Michael Phelps as the best swimmer on the planet. While Michael hasn’t had the best training over the last four years he was still focused on going out on top and cementing his legacy.

Tonight marked the halfway point in the swimming competition and it’s definitely lived up to the hype. There are upsets and surprises every year but this year has come with extras. Both Phelps and Lochte failing to medal in some of their key events along with other upsets have really made for some interesting competition in the pool.

I just watched Michael Phelps swim the 200 Butterfly, his signature event which he hadn’t lost in 9 years – until tonight. I even knew the result because of following Twitter earlier in the day, but still as the race was going on I couldn’t believe that he was actually going to lose when it was over. And it wasn’t until the last stroke that Phelps did lose. Which was the exact opposite of his most memorable race in Beijing when he came from behind in the 100 Fly to win by .01 of a second.

Sport and competition can be cruel sometimes – especially at the highest level. The best part for me though is seeing how Phelps, Lochte and all great athletes respond after defeat. It’s been said that you see a person’s true side not in their victory but in defeat. I think that’s true and it’s the only time you really do see the heart of a champion.

Coming off of sub-par performances Lochte and Phelps teamed up for the U.S.’s most dominant event over the past few Olympics – the 800 Free Relay. And the dominance continued with Phelps capping off the anchor leg of the Gold Medal Relay and winning his 19th Olympic medal – more than another other athlete in history.

I think the circumstances of tonight in which he became the most decorated Olympian ever were fitting. He was proved vulnerable and yet bounced back as a true champion with the help of a great team effort.

I find myself watching sports more and more not for entrainment necessarily but for examples to point to when talking with my clients and athletes. Whether your goal is a Gold Medal or to play with your grandkids pain free you’ll probably have some setbacks along the way. In fact if you don’t your goals probably aren’t lofty enough. But remember in your defeats and setbacks is when your character truly counts.

When you set high goals be prepared to start a journey. Understand that you’re starting to create a legacy that may extend generations down the road. And when it gets tough, and it will, remember its not how you start your journey, or even how it’s going in the middle, but how you end it. In whatever journey you’re on make sure you finish strong. You may not be writing a legacy of the Greatest Olympian of All-time but you’re still writing your legacy. And in the end yours is what should matter the most.