The Olympic games are winding down. We sure have been treated to some amazing performances. Watching Simone Biles, Michael Phelps, Usain Bolt, and all the other incredible athletes, one can’t help but wonder, "How is that possible? How can a human being achieve such near-perfection?" Surely genetics plays a role, but there’s something even more important at work here - the simple drive to improve.
In the Olympics, it is only fractions of a point or fractions of a second that separate gold from everything else. Those fractions represent tiny details in performance or technique. Continuously improving on them is what gets you to the top of the podium. And the athletes know it. Here are some inspirational things they’ve had to say about improvement, attitude, and leadership over the last few weeks.
“I went from having surgery to being one of the top 15 men in the country by the age of 17. That shows me how much you can improve if you really want something bad enough.”- Jake Dalton, Gymnastics
“I’m not naturally the most confident athlete. But if my coaches tell me that I can run a certain time, I believe it with no question. Then that’s it, that’s decided, that’s what I am going to run.”- Emma Coburn, Track and Field
“Peace is knowing that I did everything I possibly could have done, that something beautiful will come out of this, and that I will come back stronger than ever before.” - Missy Franklin, Swimming
“I’ve been working really hard these past couple of years and just grinding it out and I feel like I could be a champion one day.”- Andre de Grasse, Track and Field
“You have to use your moment to help people around you.”- Ibtihaj Muhammad, Fencing
“A year ago I was number 533 in the world … if anyone told me that I’d be here winning a match at the Olympics, I’d say it was a lie.”- Rogerio Dutra Silva, Tennis
“You can’t take anything for granted out here. We don’t discount any of our competitors, and we respect them. That’s why, I think, we were able to be successful.”- Nia Ali, Track and Field
“You learn more from your losses than you do your wins and that’s something that we can hopefully take into the future.”- Rowie Webster- Water Polo
“I told myself: Listen: Don’t panic. Take your time, chip away, and work your way back in.”- Usain Bolt, Fastest Man Alive
“I think goals should never be easy. They should force you to work even if they are uncomfortable at the time.”- Michael Phelps, The Other Fastest Man Alive
Some athletes will return home with the gold and others with only memories. A few will be greeted with hero’s welcomes, but many will quietly return to their training facilities and start getting ready for 2020. They will be looking for the tiny improvements, those incremental changes that just might make all of the difference next time.