OlympicsThe Summer Olympics is the one time that I watch way too much TV and so far there have been many lessons for life and trading.

Phelps in general:

1. Stating a goal publicly leads to personal commitment to keep it.

2. Families that support each other go further individually.

3. Use others' antagonism as motivation.

4. If you are passionate, dedicated and talented about something, people will find you fascinating even though you are singleminded about something most people consider dull.

5. Give credit to those who helped you. Never forgetting to thank your coach, especially after a tough win.

Phelps miracle touch win:

1. Stay focused on what you can do, not what success others are having

2. Momentum or Acceleration/Deceleration are very deceptive to predict, but in hindsight can have dramatic results.  On second thought everybody "knew" he would come through. Remember, even the experts called it wrong immediately after the race and before the results, even his Mom.

3. Keep your head down, don't raise your head in victory, until it's done.

4. The biggest of kingdoms may occasionally be lost by want of a nail, but the biggest of kingdoms usually got there by always having that spare nail to draw on when needed.

The Chinese Dominance of Gymnastics and Diving

1. A country that is authoritarian and values rules above the individual can excel in a sport that has strict rules, close adherence to "the system" and where perfection is based judges' acceptance. But it has difficulty excelling in the non-arbitrary judged and purer individual athletic sports. You will get the results that match the way you rule your people.

2. Success of such an authoritarian system is terribly inefficient despite its new found embrace of "competition".

3. The USA 1, 2 in womens gymnastics, was a sharp contrast for their artistry and exuberance, to the rigorous and painful to watch approach of the young Chinese. Implying you can't demand passion and love.

4. Extreme youth and their resilience can bear such a system only for awhile. In contrast to the now 33 year old German medalist  who continued in the sport winning a medal for the love of her western womens coach who saved her son from leukemia.  But in such a harsh system the youth dreams quickly turn to being the authority rather than the producer.

The medal count China versus USA, China many Gold few silver very few bronze. USA more bronze than silver, or gold:
1. While the west, capitalism, especially the USA  version, are accused of the
unhealthy "win at all cost" attitude., it would appear to me that USA values the individuals more who clearly tried despite not winning.
2. Making their women's gymnasts age an officially sanctioned lie shows that the system "win" is the goal, not the sport. Again long term such a system will
crumble due to inefficiency.

The emergence of Jamaica as the new fastest country:

1. Talent with increased opportunity gives results.  The more competitive and
global USA college coaching system has given both.

2. The same with many more high caliber meets and more global competition. The more competitve the system, the more chances to win and the more winners the system can support. This makes picking the best harder, but making the best better.

3. Even with raw talent, great coaching or standing on the shoulders of the experts of the past is necessary.

The 38 year old Romanian Women's Marathon gold medalist:

1. She was a surprise gold medalist by making a gutsy daring surge on miles
12-16 gaining about a minute lead on the crowded "lead pack". When the
conditions are brutal, often the biggest risk is taking no risk and playing it safe.

2. Sticking to your plan, despite others' reaction, if built on study and understanding of the problem, is best.

3. While in the long run anything can happen, it doesn't happen unless you
train and sweat for many years, believing with conviction, "anything can happen" if I put my mind to it.

And now I have to go back to NBC, and perhaps more insights on these and other events.

Nigel Davies comments:

This is an interesting post, but I think it may be overly simple to define China's approach to sport as just 'authoritarian' given its millenia old culture and long standing traditions of personal cultivation. As Bronstein once wrote, we already know that one horse can run faster than another. So is it really surprising that China doesn't 'get' 'competition' in quite the same way that the West does?

This doesn't, however, mean that its athletes are merely acting out of obedience. Having hung out with lots of former Soviet chess players I learned that there are very strong incentives to succeed at sport in a communist country. Add to that the fact that national pride is much stronger in China than it ever was in the artificial entity that was Soviet Union and you have a potent mix. Sure they may lack 'joy' and 'passion', but these things didn't stop surly Soviet chess players kicking our joyful asses for decades.

It would be interesting to get expert insight on this, but the Chinese seem to have promoted some sports more heavily than others. For example they became utterly dominant in table-tennis without showing too much elsewhere but have recently branched out. Now they're the top nation in women's chess and look like they could soon dominate the male game too. And just like the Soviets they never crack a smile.





Speak your mind

9 Comments so far

  1. Craig Bowles on August 19, 2008 6:42 am

    What do Usain Bolt and Edwin Moses have in common? Bigger really is better. All Bolt has to do is perform on this level for 10 years and 122 consecutive races and he’ll match up with the greatest.

  2. steve leslie on August 19, 2008 8:42 am

    Very deep analysis here Mr. Sears. Excellent commentary. China reminds me of the old Soviet Union. How they turned sport into a national orgainization. In the Soviet system, once an athlete exhibited promise, they became a "property of the state". An entity rather than a person. A part of a machine. A well coreographed piece of an ornate and very organized puzzle. I just watched Henry Cejudo win the gold medal in the 55kg freestyle wrestling. At 21 he is the youngest wrestler in US history to win a gold medal in this sport.This was despite losing his first match and being behind in every subsequent match with the exception of the gold medal match. The last time US won a gold at this weight class was in 1904. Not even Jim Thorpe was around then. he competed in the 1912 Olympics. Henry is from South Central LA. originally an illegal immigrant,of mexican descent, one of six children, and whose father died last year after being in and out of prison. The next time your child complains about something being hard or unattainable, have them look up the name Henry Cejudo.

    As to the quick acceleration of Chinese athletes in a sport: The Men's trampoline just finished and gold and bronze were won by two Chinese interrupted by the silver going to the Canadian entrant. The difference between silver and bornze was .1 point. The Canadian had a more difficult routine which meant the difference. In the 2004 trampoline event China had one finalist who finished 10th.

    With respect to my friend the Grandmaster: We still remember Bobby Fischer vs Boris Spassky in Iceland in 1972. And don't forget that IBM's Deep Blue did very nicely against Garry Kasparov, defeating him 2-1 in six games. Kasparov claimed cheating but Deep Blue was dismantled after that. Interesting note here is that Feng-hsiung Hsu was the chief scientist behind Deep Blue. Is this irony?

  3. Nigel Davies on August 19, 2008 5:38 pm

    For an objective appreciation of American chess one should check out the Olympiad results which feature two American golds in the last 70 years. Having said that, the US team came third in the 2006 event with the following players: Gata Kamsky, Alexander Onischuk, Hikaru Nakamura, Ildar Ibragimov, Gregory Kaidanov, Varuzhan Akobian.

    None of these players was born in the US but this was was the best result since 1998 (2nd behind Russia) when two of the six man squad were home-grown players.

  4. Vic Liu on August 19, 2008 5:51 pm

    On this "Chinese Dominance of Gymnastics and Diving" — pretty shallow comment. The Chinese also have top players in other sports as evidenced by their medals. A fair comparison is men's gymnastics team of Chinese versus USA. Hope we don't have some sour losers here.

  5. steve leslie on August 20, 2008 9:31 am

    Here are results of events concluded.


    Gymnastics 9 gold 14 total
    Diving 6 gold 8 total
    Trampoline 2 gold 3 total


    Swimming 12 gold 31 total
    Gymnastics 2 gold 10 total


    Gymnastics 1 gold 2 total.

    Both countries have 77 medals won so far. 40% of China's medals have come from Gymnastics and diving. 40% of US medals have come from swimming.

  6. steve leslie on August 20, 2008 11:18 am

    Edwin Moses certainly was a fantastic athlete who combined talent with incredible training and conditioning methods. He was prohibited from competing in the 1980 Olympics or he would have certainly won a gold medal in his event. So is Usain Bolt as you cannot diminish a world record accomplishment in a premiere event such as the 100M. He is breezing in the 200m prelims.

    When one speaks of streaks, Alexander Karelin greco-roman wrestler comes to mind. Undefeated in competition for 13 years 3 times Olympic gold medalist and the last six years unscored upon. He was defeated 1-0 by Rulon Gardner in the 2000 Olympics and retired. At 41 years old he looks absolutely terrifying. Imagine him in his prime in a Mixed Martial Arts competition.

    Al Oerter American discus thrower won 4 consecutive gold medals from 1956-1968. Bob Mathias and Daley Thompson 2 consecutive golds in the Decathlon.

  7. steve leslie on August 21, 2008 5:56 am

    For those of you who find human interest stories fascinating, The photo of the woman removing the prosthetic is Natalie du Toit from South Africa. She competed in this years open swim, which is a 10k swim in a lake that is used for rowing. Chris Collinsworth did a feature on her last evening on NBC. She lost her leg to an auto accident in 2001 and is currently ranked 5th in the world in open swim. She finished 15th. She will compete in the Paralympics also to be held in Beijing in September. She finished the event in 2.00 hours. Although disappointed in her finish she said she gave everything she had.

    I cannot even imagine swimming 6 miles in a day let alone in open water in competition.

    The Good Lord gave you a body that can endure almost anything. It is your mind you have to convince.- Vince Lombardi legendary football coach of the Green Bay Packers and who the Super Bowl trophy is named after.

  8. steve on August 23, 2008 12:28 pm

    I was very disappointed to learn that Men’s baseball and Women’s softball will be suspended after this Olympics. Evidently, the IOC has determined that there is not enough depth of competition to keep the sport alive through the Olympics. Even though Korean, Japanese, Chinese, Cuban Venezuelan and Dominican baseball players fill out many Major League baseball rosters.

    I recall that the US Men’s basketball team never lost a game until 1972 when they were essentially robbed of Gold medal by a controversial call at the buzzer allowing for time to be put back on the clock and giving the Soviet Union one last chance at a score. Which they did. This was when the U.S. only sent college players to compete in the sport. The world quickly caught up and it forced the changing of the rules to allow professionals to compete, which led to the Dream Team in 1992. Now many European, Asian, African, Australian and South American players fill out NBA rosters. Yao, Ginobli,Duncan, Toni Kukoc to name a few were spawned from the international expansion of basketball. It is estimated that 300 Million Chinese play basketball. And Yao is the equilavent of Brad Pitt + John Bon Jovie + Brett Favre + Jeff Gordon rolled into one celebrity in China.

    Sometimes you wonder what goes through the minds of people.

  9. anon on August 23, 2008 5:08 pm

    The Olympics officially end Sunday and the closing ceremonies will surely be spectacular. One particular note:

    I see such emotion from the athletes as they stand on the podium with their medal around their neck their national anthem plays while they raise their national flag. The range of emotion that is shown is beyond description. Each athlete seems to be unique yet similar. Some cry some sing the words some stand in silence.

    I think the most distinguishing and classy display was by Lisa Leslie of the US Women’s basketball team. She is one of the all-time greatest basketball players this sport has produced. She stood proudly with her hand across her heart and her medals hanging from her neck singing along with the melody.

    This is the image that I wish to retain.


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