One can examine an athlete’s technical specifications such as path of travel or velocity, and those are important for analysis, yet when considering what makes the champion athletes, their qualities often defy convention.
Highly decorated Olympic track star and 36 year old mother Allyson Felix is a perfect example. Lü Xiaojun, 37, just claimed weightlifting gold in Tokyo. And at 43, Tom Brady is still winning.
The champions who come to mind for me have one important X-factor — They don’t quit; they keep going.
And by extension, they keep growing and evolving.
They have histories, they have stories and so come to shape sport as well as capture public imagination.
A champion many have experienced many losses among the wins, yet they come to be seen as such because they stay in the game.
My three examples, among many, also have a nobility of character and provide largely positive examples. They engage with their audience in both gracious and animated ways.
Athletes of any age can do this, yet the most celebrated ones mature or grow up with their sport or discipline.
Champions don’t know how to give up, and that goes beyond winning. They often surmount incredible obstacles off the field in the game of life. Felix is once again a shining example.
The champion mindset can be cultivated with strong positive influences, such as wise mentors and different forms of cognitive behavioral therapy or strategy. It’s difficult to mentor oneself, yet it is possible with the aid of literature and meditation.
One learns to act on what one loves, regardless of applause. Although approval is enjoyable, that ability may lead to a richer life experience overall.
Chaka Khan said she didn’t do it for the Grammys. She kept making music because it’s in her blood. She couldn’t not do it!
In music — after all, athletics and music have a tight relationship — the most beloved artists have usually had a dud album or two along the way, but they keep producing because that’s their art.
AC/DC didn’t care about critical acclaim. They kept doing their thing unabashedly and have won over a global fanbase.
Champions may, at first, be even unremarkable in development or be so different they go unrecognized, but as their momentum gathers eventually the world catches up to them!
Becoming a champion doesn’t have to mean genetic profile or fame. It does mean becoming tenacious and living the joy of that alchemization.