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4 Ways that Olympic Athletes will Deal with "Failure"
Author: Dr. Brian Marentette
Published: 8/5/2016
As competition gets underway and medals begin to be handed out, we are going to see A LOT of “failure” at the Olympics. Every athlete competing has dreams of winning a gold medal. With over 11,000 athletes competing, and only about 850 of them receiving gold medals, there is sure to be quite a bit of disappointment and failure to achieve that dream. How will all these elite athletes deal with this "failure" of not winning a gold medal? There are a several ways that the most mentally strong athletes deal with failure to achieve their goals. We will dive into four ways that the best athletes deal with adversity, setback, and “failure” at the Olympics. 

1) Learning from the experience
The first thing elite athletes will do after failing to reach a goal or losing a competition is ask themselves a series of questions to learn from the experience. What went wrong? What didn’t they do that they could have? What could they do better? Was it a lack of effort? Was the winning competitor simply better than me? All of these questions help the athlete learn from their mistakes and go back to working on being the best they can be. Without failure, learning where you need to improve is a lot more difficult. Failure tells you a lot about your weaknesses. It's up to the athlete to realize their weaknesses and turn them into strengths.

2) Identify the positives that come from the experience
You could be in the finals, run your best race of your career and finish second. Is that failure? Or did you essentially make it to Olympic finals with the 7 best runners in the world, and just happen to be the 2nd best runner by .01 seconds? Re-framing the outcome of a competition is a very powerful mental skill that elite athletes use. Finishing second in an Olympic final race is still quite an accomplishment; you’ve beat out thousands (or more) athletes, only to be bettered by one person by .01 seconds. While that’s disappointing, elite athletes keep a positive perspective that they came just that close to winning. If they are that good, they likely have a very good chance at winning the next race, so there’s no sense in getting down on themselves. The best athletes stay positive.

3) Accept that failure is inevitable in every athlete's career
Fact: There is no single (competitive) athlete in the history of sport to go undefeated in their entire career. Failure is inevitable and the best athletes know this. Elite athletes understand that failure is going to happen, but that doesn’t mean they are OK with failing. Quite the opposite; most elite athletes cannot stand to lose! But just because an athlete loses a big competition, even the biggest like the final of an Olympic event, the best athletes don’t immediately quit the sport or get a negative attitude. The best athletes accept the defeat and move on.

4) Do not attribute the failure to lack of talent
Olympic athletes are the best in the world in their respective sport. All of them have gotten to where they are because of hard work, effort, and preparation. None of these athletes had an easy road to the Olympics. Just making it to the Olympics is quite an accomplishment and is the result of years and years of preparation and competition. Yet still, the best athletes look at failure as a lack of preparation, taking the wrong strategy, making a critical mistake, or another aspect of the competition and their performance. They do not look at failure as a lack of talent. One might make a counter argument when running against Usane Bolt; he holds several world records and is considered the fastest sprinter in the world. But do you think it will do you any good to just say “hey, I’ll never win against Usane, he’s just more talented than I will ever be!” No, it won’t, and the best athletes in the world would never say that. They might admit that they need to double their training time and intensity to be able to beat him, but they won’t just give in and say he’s just more talented. The best athletes recognize that more effort, better strategy, and better execution can deliver the results they want.