Think like an Olympian

With the London 2012 Olympics upon us, many will be looking forward to watching some super human performances. But what does it take to be an Olympic champion? Besides innate talent, what are the qualities that enable people to scale the heights of achievement and win on the greatest stage on earth? Here, 3 insightful quotes, from 3 gold medal champions, go some way to unravelling the mystery of the Olympic Mind-set.

‘I am the most driven person. I want to make something of my life.’

Becky Adlington, Beijing 400m and 800m gold medallist.


It seems simple, but most people overlook the drive it takes to achieve something extraordinary. Probably rarer than talent, that obsession with accomplishing whatever it is you want to achieve is what turns you into a champion. In Becky Aldington’s case, it gave her the motivation to get up, morning after morning, to train at 5.30am. Furthermore, it saw her through a potentially career ruining attack of Glandular Fever. Interestingly, the same illness had previously put an end to her sister’s promising swimming career. This kind of drive is unusual – it sets a person apart. Most people are comfortable with being comfortable. Why bother putting yourself through the hell of training? You could do all that work and still not be successful. However, this kind of apathy gives you a head start on so many others. To them, your drive may seem weird, but it will push you to a place that few can reach.


‘I thought, “If I can just touch it first, it wouldn’t matter if I dropped dead immediately afterwards.”’

Judy Grinham on her battle to win gold in the 100m backstroke at the 1956 Melbourne Olympics Nothing else matters.

Not the pain of your training. Not the sacrifices you have to make to excel. Not the heartache of defeat. You absolutely, unequivocally have to be on life’s winning podium. This all-consuming desire to achieve your goal is absolutely necessary in developing the Olympic mind-set. When something becomes so important that you’d die for it, you immediately take your quest to the next level. You use all of your reserves, explore every avenue available and bring into play the full power of your being. It’s got to be that important to you.


‘Malcolm was totally integrated. There was no aspect of his life not geared to winning.’

Peter Hicks, former editor of the National Rifle Association Journal, commenting on Malcolm Cooper, Gold medal winner in the 50meter Rifle shot in both the 1984 and 1988 games.

Integration is the key. Malcolm Cooper had no television, pets or children. Although his sport was sedentary, he swam and ran vigorously every day because he believed breathing to be a vital part of his shooting skill. As the quote says, every aspect of his life was geared towards winning. How can you become an integrated person? You have to be brutal and single minded. If there’s some area of your life that’s not relevant to what you want to achieve or who you want to be then it’s got to go. Furthermore, you have to be selective. No Olympian wins at every event. You have to choose your discipline. Once you have found this project, career or sport, you have to throw yourself wholeheartedly into the pursuit of perfection in this field.


So there it is. Three harsh truths about what it takes to achieve something out of the ordinary. Not prepared to make the sacrifices or set yourself apart? There’s always the wooden spoon . . .

Please feel free to comment and leave your own suggestions for what it takes to develop the Olympic mind-set. (Quotes taken from The Greatest British Olympians by Neil Wilson. Image used courtesy of Falcon Writing's Photostream on

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