The Olympic Games have begun in Rio! For a little over two weeks, we are captivated by incredible victories, heart-warming back stories, painful defeats, and inspiring comebacks. We watch in awe as athletes run, jump, flip, and swim into our hearts. There is just something special about the Olympic Games and the athletes that have spent their entire lives preparing for this moment. We cheer with them, we cry with them, when they win, we win. No matter the final outcome, they are all champions to us.
Beyond the obvious physical skills it takes to be an Olympian, there is a mental toughness that separates them from the rest. Nowhere is this more apparent than on the Olympic stage. As an athlete, I know how quickly everything can change. You can train for countless hours a day, everyday, for years, but you can not control everything. The pressure is there. The distractions are there. Can they handle it? Some can...and some can not. This is the Olympic Games and anything can happen.
Mental toughness. If you want any chance of being successful in life, you have to possess the indomitable will to handle the obstacles that will surely come your way. For the next few weeks, we will discuss how to develop this difficult, yet imperative attribute. For today, I will just begin with this extraordinary story...
On Friday night, the Opening Ceremonies brought to light one of the prime examples of what it means to be a true Olympian. Lighting the cauldron with the ceremonial Olympic torch, was a Brazilian gentleman by the name of Vanderlei Cordeiro de Lima. He is a former Olympic marathon runner who made headlines during the 2004 Olympic Games held in Athens. During the grueling race, Vanderlei was leading, when out of nowhere, he was attacked by a spectator. Seven crucial seconds went by before he was able to reenter the race.
With four miles remaining, he had to somehow shake off the traumatic event and cross the finish line. His pace had been abruptly interrupted, and while he was not physically hurt, he was undoubtedly mentally damaged. He could have easily given up. No one would blame him. He was cheated, it was unfair, and it impacted his lead. Two runners surpassed him after the attack and Vanderlei entered the arena for the final lap in the third place position. But instead of tears, there was a smile. Instead of despair, there was pure joy. He won the Olympic bronze medal that day, but in his eyes, it was as good as gold. Later on, Vanderlei was awarded the prestigious Pierre de Coubertin medal for the spirit of sportsmanship.
No excuses. No complaining. Just a model example of mental toughness and the importance of knowing how to cope through a difficult situation. Thank you, Vanderlei Cordeiro de Lima, you are an inspiration to us all.
Looking for a workout that tests both your physical and mental toughness? Give this one a try!