What Makes an Olympic Champion?

The March 2018 issue of Seahorse Magazine includes my first-ever full length article in that excellent publication. Entitled “What does it take…”, the subhead reads, “US Olympian Carol Cronin has recently spent a considerable amount of time grilling some likely suspects.” True enough!

Apparently some of my “victims” define “Olympic Champion” as gold medalist. To me, it’s any medalist, but I’m glad that Seahorse came up with a different title to dodge the issue. I’m including the first three paragraphs here as a teaser. To read all four pages, subscribe to Seahorse; there’s a ton of other great stuff about sailing, all bracketed with dry British humour.

Each quadrennium Olympic programmes spend the equivalent of a small country’s GDP honing their best medal prospects, and still we don’t really know what makes an Olympic champion. Is it nature: the dream that burns brighter/starts earlier? Or is it nurture: parental guidance, federation support and a well-defined pathway?

Since my own disappointing finish at the 2004 Olympics I’ve thought quite a lot about the vagaries that make it so cursedly hard to win a medal in sailing. All Olympians are driven, hardworking and focused on a specific lofty goal. All have trained for thousands of cold, wet hours, in search of an elusive speed edge (Kiel, anyone?). Only a few step on the podium.

Maybe, by taking advantage of sailors’ accessibility (leaping between all the vague connections), I could interview a bunch of recent medal winners. Maybe linking their stories together would help us see a pattern and figure out what enabled them to rise above an already elite group. Maybe.

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Read other articles I’ve written for Seahorse

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