“what if, but what is”
Gary West coach of Anna Meares – Australian Olympic Gold Medal Cyclist
In mid-2012, I was in England attending a management training program which coincided with the London Olympics. Sadly, I did not attend any events. However, one night over a cold beer in my hotel room I watched two women cyclists, the 2008 gold medal winner Victoria Pembleton and the 2008 silver medallist Anna Meares, slog it out in the women’s sprint. It was an intense battle of stamina and wills and in the mesmerising trussell Anna Meares eventually triumphed.
So, who is Anna Meares?
Anna was Australia’s first female cycling gold medallist. She was an 11 times world cycling champion and the only Australian athlete to win medals at four consecutive Olympics.
Meares, was a daughter of a coalminer and grew up in Blackwater central Queensland hundreds of kilometres from the nearest bike track. When her elder sister Kerrie showed promise as a cyclist the family moved to the coastal city of Rockhampton as it had a bike track.
- Athens 2004 – gold medal in women’s 500-metre time trial, bronze medal in 200m sprint
- Beijing 2008 – silver medal in women’s sprint
- London 2012 – gold medal in the women’s in and bronze medal in the women’s team sprint
- Rio de Janeiro 2016 – bronze medal in the keirin
These results are remarkable but there is something that is exceptional about her Olympic record. In January 2008 seven months out from the Beijing Olympics, Meares broke her neck after crashing in the World Cup competition, fracturing her C2 vertebra, dislocating her right shoulder and tearing her ligaments and tendons. She went within 2 mm of becoming a paraplegic or worse death. Within 10 days she was back on her bike. With intensive rehabilitation she was able to fight her way back and qualify for the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Not only did she manage to qualify, but she also won a silver medal. From a broken neck to a silver medal in seven months – a truly remarkable performance.
Whilst her dedication and intense training to get fit enough to qualify and win a medal is testament to her intense focus and a clear goal (link here) there is something that is more compelling. It was her attitude. She did not focus on ‘what if’ but ‘what is’. Meares do not dwell on what might have happened if she’d been more seriously injured. Her coach made her appreciate her current situation. She was thankful and became more determined and focussed.
As managers, Anna Meares provides us with a great lesson.
Focus on what you can achieve – what’s in front of you. Don’t dwell on what you can’t control.
Four years later in London, Meares went on to win a gold and a bronze medal in Rio.