Are We There Yet?

London 2012 banner at The Monument.

London 2012 banner at The Monument. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As someone who was not sporty at school I have a huge admiration for people who are dedicated, train hard, and ultimately find a way to excel in their particular field.  When they manage to reach their goal against expectations and despite obstacles I am even more impressed.


Kudos then to Nicola Adams, who is the first Olympic Women’s Boxing Gold medallist at the London 2012 Games.


Speaking to the Guardian newspaper in September she describes what she has learned from competing in the ring, with hundreds of people watching her bout “…[it] teaches you a lot about confidence. Now I know that if I want to get something done, I can do it as long as I put my mind to it”.


That’s a philosophy which Nicola has put to the test, as she notes there are still some people who disagree with the idea of women boxing.  As she goes on to say, “If a woman wants to play a sport, she can. There’s nothing stopping us”.


Perhaps the factors stopping anyone from achieving what they set their heart on are twofold.  First other people may disapprove, or get in the way; second there may be an element of self-doubt at work.


Hats off to Felicity Aston, the first woman to ski solo across Antarctica in January 2012.  Again, like with Nicola Adams gender expectations shaped attitudes to future success, as did a small inner voice.


Speaking to journalist Huma Qureshi, Felicity said that “…the most powerful motivator was thinking of all those people who had underestimated me or put me down – I didn’t want them to be right, I wanted to be right. And so I’d get the strength to carry on, to get up and go”.


She continues with an, I think, interesting generalisation about the relationship between gender and confidence.  She says “Sometimes I work with amazing women and yet I sense they have this lack of confidence in their own intrinsic abilities. Sometimes I do too – and I wonder why we do when men don’t?”


I wonder if actually men might just present an air of confidence about their intrinsic abilities, whilst they secretly may feel just as doubtful about their competencies.  An article which appears in the Motoring section of the Daily Telegraph got me thinking about this.


In the piece explorer and ‘natural navigator’ Tristan Gooley noted that “Being forced to confront the fact that their [natural navigation] system does not work makes men flustered and usually results in them putting the pedal to the floor in a desperate bid to avoid the reality of the situation”.


That seems like a brilliant metaphor to me.  Some people, men and women, are consciously not competent and choose not to address that fact.  They may be the ones who never end up at a satisfactory destination.  Perhaps for either gender it is better to ask for help, to reach your destination, rather than carry on frustratingly doing something that simply doesn’t help complete the journey.

Getting Inspired

I found some of the athlete’s personal stories from the Olympics to be amazing and I suspect the Paralympics will generate even more inspiring tales.


Here are a few thoughts, prompted by the recent Games, showing how inspiration can be kindled, capitalised on and embellished for the future.


Track star Mo Farah has taken years to fan the spark of his basic ability.  Mo was inspired to fulfil his potential, crossing oceans in the process.  He started out in Africa and received coaching in Europe, then continued honing his skills in the United States.  Notwithstanding his journey, the Guardian considers that:


“the drive that has propelled Farah to his Games-defining feat in his hometown is all is own”.

English: Mo Farah at the 2010 European Athleti...

English: Mo Farah at the 2010 European Athletics Championships in Barcelona (Photo credit: Wikipedia)



British sportswoman Nicola Adams has blazed a trail for others, as the first Gold medallist in women’s Olympic boxing.  According to a Telegraph interview she is prepared for her role as a pioneer:


“I definitely want to inspire girls to follow their dreams” she said “and not be bothered by what people say.  That’s what we need – more females being role models in sport”.



Cycling Olympian Laura Trott spoke to the Guardian about crowd sourcing encouragement:


“I’m peaking at the right time and it’s all thanks to the coaches, and the support of the crowd and my family” she told the BBC.


Basketball’s John Amaechi has an eye for the future.  In his view performance gains for his sport in Britain, cannot be determined quantitatively:


“The idea you can grow a sport by counting how many people do something for x minutes a week is ridiculous” he says in a BBC article about the sporting legacy.