That said, I can understand mindset and sportsmanship while competing. And because of that, there are some moments that have really stood out and made an impact on me as both an athlete and a coach.
#1 Has to be Shaun White. OK so I haven't like followed his career or anything but have read a few negative tweets and articles about him… I don't feel like I have enough grasp on any of that to comment but what I will say is this- that guy showed incredible sportsmanship the other night when he got shut out of the medals in the half pipe. The results of that event were all over the news the other day so I knew how it all ended before I watched the prime time coverage… I watched anyway mostly b/c I was curious as to how he would handle losing. I sort of ASSumed that he would be pissy about it (maybe because I would have been??) but instead the first thing he did was go genuinely congratulate the guy who won. It was amazing and his ability to be gracious in defeat has been a highlight of the Olympics for me so far. My respect level for him went through the roof when I heard his post-race interview… no excuses… just It wasn't my day. We could all learn from that example. He remains a champion in my mind.
#2 Without talking about any athlete in particular, I've noticed that the athletes who smile the most seem to be the ones who are performing the best. Siri Lindley asks her athletes that a lot DO YOU LOVE IT?? And you can tell from the look in their eyes before they start (especially the ice skaters) if they feel like they are thrilled with the opportunity to do what they love on a world stage… vs those who put a ton of pressure on themselves and look scared to death before they even start and then get out there and fall. It's not like a 100% correlation or anything but it's pretty obvious if you really watch. Since I don't know any of these skaters I play a little game while I'm watching… I study their faces before they start and then guess whether or not they're going to nail it. So far I've been pretty good at calling it based on that one observation. Interesting. Turns out, you gotta LOVE IT! And not fear failure.
#3 Speaking of not fearing failure… It appears that if you wanna win, you gotta get out of your comfort zone and GO BIG! I find it interesting that I've heard several times that athletes in those slope style events are throwing those huge tricks but have never done them before… That guy who won the first gold medal of the games… young guy… Ya why not? The Olympic Finals seems like a good time to try a new trick, no? Result, gold medal. Nice work, man! I think the lesson there is to let go of your fears, believe in yourself, and GO FOR IT when it matters.
I'm sure there are like 100 more lessons we can gleam from watching these athletes… But those stand out for me so far!