The physical and emotional endurance of the world's best athletes comes from within and from without.
Watching the Olympics underway in London, you can't help but be captivated by these seemingly super-human competitors. Ancient Greeks literally honored their Olympic heroes as gods. The fascination and adoration for our athletes during the games almost rises to that level. How do these competitors find such strength and endurance – both physically and emotionally to push through the challenges and pressures? What motivates and drives these athletes to the absolute pinnacle of their sports? There is clearly something special (if not actually super-human) in each of them. But sometimes their back-stories are just as amazing as their victories. As we learn more about these athletes and observe them under such extraordinary pressure we start to see hints about what motivates and drives them to be champions. Maybe even the greatest athletes need a partner. Maybe they have their own heroes.
Treanor & Walsh
Beach volleyball duo Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh Jennings have been called the "ultimate team" after winning gold in the Athens (2004) and Beijing (2008) Olympic games. Though never losing in an Olympic match the two faced many injuries challenges and life changes ultimately parting ways for two years. Misty came out of retirement to join Kerri for the London Olympics. When the partners felt a little out of sync after a couple of shaky matches leading up to the Olympics they sought help from sports psychologist Michael Gervais. They jokingly call this their "marriage therapy" and say this has helped them "reconnect" on the court.
"Absolutely. We're married" said Walsh Jennings. "I have two amazing partners: my husband Casey and Misty. You gotta work through it. Sometimes you take things for granted. I've known her for so long but I don't know everything's she thinking. It's important to get on the same page." St. Louis Post Dispatch
After losing their first Olympic set to the Schwaiger sisters of Austria they rallied to win the match and continue toward another gold medal.
Phelps & Lochte
On Thursday August 2nd one of the greatest rivalries ever seen in Olympic swimming came to an end with Michael Phelps' victory over Ryan Lochte by 0.63 seconds in the Men’s 200M Individual Medley event. This was likely the last time the two will face each other in the pool ending a rivalry that has grown over many years. Michael Phelps' historic Olympic run is the stuff of legend. But Lochte has always been on his heels and has given him a real run over their last several match-ups leading up to this Olympic grand finale.
"We love racing against each other" said Phelps who plans to retire after the games. "Neither one of us likes to lose. I like to say we bring out the best in one another." AP Sports
But by all indications theirs is a very friendly rivalry – even referred to as a "bromance." When the two are seen together without their faces in the water they’re all smiles and laughing – of course these two record-setting champs have a lot to smile about!
Leyva & Alvarez
Gymnast Danell Leyva made a remarkable comeback in the all-around final on Wednesday August 1st. After faltering on the pummel horse earning a deduction that dropped him to 17th place hope for a medal seemed lost. It wasn’t encouragement from a team member or motivation from a rival that spurred Leyva on for the next four events to land in 3rd place with a bronze medal when the dust had settled. It was the "never-say-die" coach who also happens to be his stepfather.
Alvarez was unusually subdued after Leyva scored so low on the pommel horse. But when Leyva slowly walked back to his chair and sat hunched over with his lucky green towel over his head allowing doubt to creep in Alvarez patted him on the back and offered a prediction.
"I told him he was going to medal" Alvarez said. Yahoo Sports
With the kind of parental enthusiasm that embarrasses young athletes everywhere Alvarez has been cheering and coaching his stepson since he was just a little guy. The Cuban-born proud father this week shared a victory with his son that was very sweet indeed.
" Alvarez patted him on the back and offered a prediction.
"I told him he was going to medal