Weekend Reading: “It’s all about who can get his hand on the wall first today.”

“It’s not who’s put up the fastest time in the world that year, or who’s put up the fastest time in the previous four years, but who can get their hand on the wall first today.” – Nathan Adrian, 100m Freestyle Gold Medalist at the 2012 Olympics

The favorites always get the lion’s share of attention – and television coverage – at the Olympics. And they typically say the most predictable things when asked about their performances. For me, the most interesting – and probably the most genuine – comments come from the athletes who weren’t expected to win.

Nathan Adrian is a great swimmer. He’s won three world championships since the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, China. And in Beijing he was part of the 4x100m relay team that won the gold medal (although he didn’t swim in the final race). But coming into the 100m freestyle final in London, he was up against a stacked field and the favorite for gold was Australia’s James Magnussen in the lane next to him. In the rows nearby were Cesar Cielo – the current world record holder from Brazil, and Yannick Agnell – the swimmer who chased down Ryan Lochte in the final leg of the 4x100m relay to win gold for France. By his own admission he was hoping to make it on the podium. Any step of the podium.

47.52 seconds later, Adrian punched the wall to stop the clock. Just 1/100th of a second later, Magnussen touched to win the silver medal. The quote above came from his poolside interview immediately after the race, and it’s a sentiment all competitors should take to heart.


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“Previous results are not a guarantee of future performance.” That quote actually came from the fine print on a TV ad (for a local personal injury lawyer) that played shortly after Adrian’s performance. Take that quote out of the context of litigation and apply it to competition, and it too is a sentiment competitors should take to heart.

Every time you step to a start line of a race, the scenario boils down to what Nathan Adrian described. It’s all about who can get to the finish line first on this day, right now. The competitors around you may have more experience, more wins to their credit, or better equipment, but they have to rise to the same challenge you do. On this day, right now, they have to get to the finish line first. What they’ve done in the past doesn’t guarantee they can do it today. And what you haven’t yet accomplished doesn’t limit what you can achieve today.

When we stand on a start line the only thing that matters is what we are capable of doing at that moment. And the truth is, you don’t know what they competitors near you are capable of. You don’t know if they’re having the best days of their lives or are feeling sluggish. Don’t give them the benefit of the doubt just because they’ve beaten you in the past.

There are whole lot more underdogs than there are favorites, and it’s fair to say that almost every time you go to the start line there will be at least one person there who is faster, more powerful, or more accomplished than you are. But no one is unbeatable, and favorites cannot be granted an easier path to victory based on their previous results. Push them to their limits and make them prove they deserved their status as a pre-race favorite. If they still manage to win you will at least know they earned it.

All that matters is who can put his hand on the wall first today. That can be you. And only you can make it happen.

Have a great weekend, and keep watching the Olympics! The Women’s Triathlon is this morning and CTS Athlete Erin Densham is a favorite for gold! And later in the week, CTS Athlete Katerina Nash is a medal favorite in the Women’s Mountain Bike event!

Chris Carmichael
CEO/Head Coach
Carmichael Training Systems

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