Desire: The Most Important Ingredient for Success

26 April 2013

mountaintopDesire is the most important ingredient for success. It’s what separates the Olympians from the Olympic medallists. If you don’t want it bad enough you will not get it. Desire, or the lack of it, is why I believe India has had a dismal showing over the past few Olympics. Let’s start with the athletes. Indian athletes are scared to dream. They are in over their heads when it comes to this Olympic medals business.

“I am happy with my performance. I have become the first woman to reach the finals of the discus throw. It’s a good achievement for me”, said Krishna Poonia after finishing an overall seventh in her discus throwing competition at the recently concluded Olympics. The achievement is a good one, no doubt, but at age 35 and with a truckload of experience under your belt she should have aimed higher. This was probably her last Olympic competition. She should have given it everything she had. But she didn’t. Her demeanour during her final few throws showed a clear lack of ambition. While gold medallist, Sandra Perkovic, was animated in her pre-throw ritual – swinging her hands madly to raise the crowd’s voice – and fourth placed Yarelys Barrios stomped the synthetic track repeatedly for a fresh pump of adrenalin, Krishna Poonia walked to the circle and threw her discus without much emotion.

We have other examples of world champions like Ronjan Sodhi who seemed unprepared mentally to perform at the big stage. They have bags of talent, evident from their countless international medals and therefore the world number 1 status. But when it came to an Olympic gold, they just did not want it enough.

You have to set the medal target well in advance and then focus all your training, your daily habits, your lifestyle towards that one goal and go ahead and achieve it. Take Saina Nehwal for instance. Her Olympic training began as an 18-year-old, right from when she lost a heart-breaking quarterfinal match in Beijing to Indonesia’s Marie Kristin Yulianti. Heart-breaking – because she knew that with a little bit more focus she could have easily won it. Everyone did. She had the belief which came from within and began setting herself up for the Olympics 2012. She had a successful 2010 but a below par 2011 where she fought with her coach Gopichand. That was the real low-point of her career – the result of an inevitable clash of egos, comparable to long-standing Paes – Bhupathi dispute. While Paes and Bhupathi did not consider Olympic success reason enough for reconciliation, Saina would not let anything stand in the way of achieving her goal. After a month long session with Pulela Gopichand’s assistant coach – Suresh Babu – Saina quickly apologized to her mentor and resumed high-level training. Babu was given the boot. Gopi set a regime of fitness, gym-work, nutrition and training that Saina followed religiously. They probably didn’t see eye-to-eye while training and hardly spoke to each other off-court but that didn’t matter. They shared a common goal. They went so far as to regulate her form in tournaments so that she peaked when it came to the Olympics. Gopichand had said in an interview almost a year before the Olympics, “She needs a few tournament victories now. But I am not worried. I just don’t want her to peak before the Olympics and then have nothing in the tank when it comes to the big event. It would be ideal if she started winning the tournaments closer to the Olympics. The closer, the better.” She won the Thailand Open and the Indonesian Open in June and followed it up with an Olympic bronze.

Mary came, saw and conquered. Vijay Kumar’s is another example immense self-belief. After careful training and just a little bit of luck he won silver. Gagan Narang’s performance was creditable, but with the kind of facilities available at the Balewadi Shooting Range, the regular supply of ammunition, a wealth of international and Olympic experience; he should have gunned for gold. The Indian Hockey team was only interested in saving face by qualifying for the Olympics. Their performance in London was nothing short of embarrassing. Dhyan Chand turned in his grave when Belgium scored their third goal, handing India their fifth consecutive loss, resulting in a bottom-placing.

But as Oscar Wilde so aptly put it – ‘Experience is simply the name we give our mistakes’. Our athletes must learn from their mistakes and from those of their compatriots and continue undeterred on their journey to the pinnacle of sporting glory. The desire to win will go a long way in savouring the hunt.