Champions are born in Adversity

The Summer Olympics are back in full swing where new champions will be born.

It reminds me of one of my favorite moments from 2008 Olympics in Bejing. A single moment that inspired several of my paintings for months to come.

Michael Phelps had a vision to be the first Olympian in hisory to win 8 gold medals in one single Olympic Games. He had already won six of his eight gold medals when he finds himself in a precarious situation well behind the leader in his seventh race – the 100 meter fly…..

To capture the magnificence of this snapshot in time we must rewind to November of 2007 – (less than 9 months before the summer Olympics in Bejing) – Michael Phelps slips and falls outside of his training facility in Ann Arbor, Michigan and fractures his wrist. The media quickly descend on the trauma of the situation and predict how long this will keep Michael out of the water. Medical pundits calculate how adversely this will affect Michael’s militaristic training regimen. “Will he even be able to compete in the Olympic games at all?”

But Michael Phelps thrives on adversity.

He immediately hops back in the water just days after breaking his wrist.

With renewed passion he designs a kickboard to support his surgically repaired wrist and propels himself back and forth across the pool again and again without the use of his arms at all. This method of training becomes his new normal.

Now fast forward 9 months to the 100 meter fly of the Olympic games in Bejing. It appears that Michaels quest for his seventh gold medal will fall short. With less than one lap to go, Michael finds himself almost a half body length behind the Serbian powerhouse Milorod Cavic – a seemingly insurmountable challenge – When out of nowhere the crowd begins to erupt. Michael surges forward turning on the gas using the strength of his powerful new kick shocking the world to finish 1st and win the gold by 1/100th of a second.

After the race, Bob Bowman, Michael’s longtime coach and friend confirmed that had it not been for Michael’s broken wrist. Had it not been for that tremendous set back…. Michael would not have won that race. Michael had won many championships with the sleekness of his freakishly long and powerful upper body. But this injury forced Michael to train differently and not rely on his greatest strength bur rather to focus on the weakness of his legs
Michael went on to achieve his goal of 8 gold medals.

Michael is an Olympian because of his ability to focus and commit on his discipline and his goals. Michael is the all time greatest Olympic champion because of his ability to adapt. His ability to embrace adversity and leverage it to his competitive advantage.

It is easy to succeed when times are good. Champions are born when times get difficult.

How will you challenge your assumptions and break through pre-conceived barriers and notions?