Traits Of Champion And How You Can Be One
The crowd gasped as they watched the small muscular frame of a man make a final attempt to lift the huge weights. They seemed to be as big as him. Well that’s how we saw it as we sat up at the back of the stadium. The rest of the competition had faded away as he continued to push past limits that had been thought humanly impossible. Now he was to try for the ultimate prize so that he could once and for all stand on the podium as not only the winner of the competition, but in fact the world champion. He would be recognized as the world record holder of his category at this prestigious international event.
A hush came across the auditorium as he stepped up to rub some chalk dust on his hands. Sweat, even at this point was noticeable on his brow. His tanned muscles rippled as he rubbed his hands until they were completely white with the dust. His steely glance clearly exposed his complete focus on the task at hand. His sure step and his purposeful movements filled the crowd with more and more confidence. Some though gave way to a slight tinge of doubt as they thought, can this small framed man possibly break through the barrier that has never been conquered by another human being of his stature?(1)
The competitor had visualized this scene in his mind day after day, month after month and year after year. He had pushed his body, stretched it, and strengthened it, all because after trying sport after sport, and never achieving, he had finally discovered the place where he could reach his dreams. Even though he was a failure as an athlete, even though he had not been accepted into the national football league and had been knocked out time and time again as a boxer, he had finally found the sport for which he had been specifically designed.(2)
Little did the crowd know of the many painful hours he had spent in physio to be able to reach this event. Only months before the world competition he had been knocked from his pushbike one night as he rode home from training. He had sustained a stress fracture in his left leg and been bruised from head to toe. At that point, he made a decision. He would still pursue the goal and would not wait another four years to become world champion.
Many had asked him what had driven him to the pinnacle of his chosen sport. He had responded, ‘I didn’t really care what I was to do, as long as I could do something and do it well.’ Excellence was his credo. He had demonstrated that same spirit in every single sport he had pursued. All his past coaches agreed that even if this man lacked certain skills in any given sport he tried, he never lacked enthusiasm. They also pointed out that he was never afraid to change direction when he recognized that his gift in a particular sport was not being realized. He was never afraid to start at the bottom again in another field and climb the ladder systematically. His aim was to always maintain a positive state of mind and a fit state of body. In doing this, he was able to flow freely between each sport until he finally found his mark. It took years for him to find his forte in sport, but he never regretted the lessons learnt along the way. Some of the most valuable lessons were learnt when he failed.(3)
One of his earliest lessons came when he was only a child. He was the short, skinny kid in the class. He was the one that the bullies targeted for punching practice before, during and after school. They would call him ‘matchsticks’ because of his skinny legs; kick his school bag about and taunt him every day. Consequently he hated school and looked for any way to avoid it. This then brought him under the scrutiny of the teachers and if the bullies weren’t beating him, he was being caned for truanting.
He was from a very poor neighbourhood and it was a struggle for his mother to keep food on the table. His father was always stealing the food money to buy himself and his mates another drink down at the pub. The harder she worked, by getting odd jobs such as cleaning, ironing and washing, to put some food on the table for her son, the harder it seemed to keep the money away from her husband. He only lived for the next drinking binge. Then there were the times when his father would come home late at night, wake up the whole household and start to break things and beat up his wife. The young boy would cuddle up to his pillow and huddle into the corner of his small room, afraid to go asleep, lest his dad would storm into his room and yell abuse at him.
It was during those times that he determined in his heart to never be like his dad. He would become something that both he and his family would be proud of; free of poverty and free from the bondage of a deprived past. It had been that background which had driven him from one achievement to another. It had enabled him to stumble over hurdles and to climb obstacles that would have stopped others in their tracks.
It was this spirit of a champion that supplied the energy to get up and try again every time he had fallen. That same spirit had brought him to the podium this very night.
By now, he was standing in front of the capacity crowd. They had all come to watch the one whom they still nicknamed ‘matchsticks’. By this time in his career though, any derogatory names bounced off him like bullets deflected from a bulletproofed vest. It wasn’t what others said to him on the outside that counted. It was what he knew in his heart that would carry him across the line.
The broken leg had healed up well, but by the time this final event was nearly over he could feel tiredness creeping up that same leg. It hadn’t been there on the previous nights but ignoring it, he moved forward to where the weights were waiting to be conquered. He rubbed his hands together and with fixed concentration he bent over, grabbed the bar, and flexed his fingers at the same time, as weightlifters do. ‘Relax, relax, relax’, were the words he quietly whispered to himself. The moment had come to complete the perfect ‘clean and jerk’.
The silence in the auditorium was thick with tension. Before anyone could take another breath, he pulled on the barbell and lifted the huge weights until they were firmly tucked under his chin, resting on his chest. By this time, he was awash with sweat and the veins on his forehead looked as though they were about to explode. Every single muscle in his body was tightened to the point that they looked as though they were going to snap in two. Would he break the world record? Would he win or would he fail? In a split second he took that bar and thrust it over the top of his head as he screamed at the top of his voice. The crowd erupted as they stood to their feet to give the champion a standing ovation.
With a look of sheer delight, he stepped back as he let the weights crash to the ground. The job was done and the task was complete. He blew a kiss to his proud mother who was looking on from the side of the podium and then lifted his arms in victory as the crowd’s applause thundered throughout the arena.
I want you to know that the athlete’s greatest strength was not, as the crowd thought, in his ability to lift such heavy weights. His strength was in finding what he was good at. He then spent the time to develop that talent to the point where he achieved good success. Notice that he had to try many things and experience failure many times before finding his true strength. So never be afraid to try something new and never fear failure. A willing student will always benefit from a setback. From it, you can learn some great lessons, which will help you to discover your own strengths. When you discover them, stick with them and then make them even stronger.
Motivational Memo: Champions identify their strengths and make them stronger.