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.


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