The 2004 final of the World's Strongest Man METRx Championship took place in Nassau in the Bahamas. Three of the six finalists impressed me especially as great role models.
Svend Karlsen of Norway (aged 37 and a former world champion) was injured in the heats before the final. However he kept going for a long time in the final by working around the events he could no longer do. He came last but still managed to put up a great performance in some of the events.
After he had just carried two huge fridges, weighing 904 pounds in all, a fair old distance, the presenter asked "Was that mind over matter?"
'Yes; very much so. Every time I stepped down on my left leg my head said: "It's not going to work." My heart said: "Keep on going." Competing when you are only half fit is mentally very tough. I think what I am doing is very brave.'
He kept competing in those events which did not directly stress his left thigh. In the end his injury caused him to stop competing when it was obvious that he could no longer get a top place.
However, he was immediately thinking of next year's competition in an optimistic and positive way. "I just need to heal up and start training again."
Svend teaches us three great lessons
1. Do what you can do. If injury or some other obstacle prevents you doing everything, just do something
2. When the going gets painful, keep on going unless you will cause serious injury.
3. When failure comes in one year, start preparing for the next.
Magnus Samuelsson of Sweden (aged 35, over 6 feet and 5 inches tall and also a former champion), was in decline from his previous invincible self, but he ended up third. He knew he was weak in a few events. Height is not always a help in strength events. However, he remarked "The key for me now is to score as high as possible in the events I can score high in."
Instead of being depressed by his poor showing in his least favourite events, he would concentrate on his strong events and make the most of what he could do. He had the sense to realize that every one has different skills and there is no point worrying about what you can't do well. Focus on what you can do well.
After one of his favourite events he remarked "I needed something to go right just to get my confidence back and to get proof that I am still strong." Once he had proof, his overall importance improved. He began to put in some great performances.
He had three bad events but kept going for his 'honour'. He wanted people to realize that he was still one of the strongest men in the world. He hoped to make the podium
He did not make the podium in Nassau but did eventually make the podium by coming third when the third place competitor was disqualified for failing a drugs test.
The following lessons can be learned from Magnus
1. Don't worry about your weaknesses; make the most of your strengths
2. Believe that you are strong and act accordingly
3. Have the pride to come third even if you realize you will not come first.
Vasyl Virastyuk of the Ukraine (aged 30) made a perfect start by winning the first event. He commented "Now you will see." He went on to win the second event and came second in the third.
Those who start well often win the whole championship and this happened to Vasyl. Success breeds success as your confidence and momentum grow.
Another secret to his success was the support and encouragement of his family. Every day they came to the gym. Vasyl commented: "It keeps me going when the training gets tough"
A third secret was doing more in training than he thought he could. One of his favourite photos is of his son shouting "More, dad, more".
A fourth secret lay in this comment from Vasyl:
"I'm only competing with myself. If I do well, then I'll win it all."
A fifth secret lay in his attitude. He always gives 100%. After the truck pull, he said: "That last event nearly killed me"
A sixth secret is that he aims high. "What were your sporting ambitions when you were growing up?" asked John Inverdale the presenter.
"My dream is the same as all athletes. In my chosen sport I want to be the best. "
A seventh secret is focus. Before the competition he was given a flat by the president of his federation. It was a big surprise and during the flight to Nassau from Kiev it was all he could think about.
However, once he reached Nassau he stopped thinking about the flat and focused his mind on the competition.
An eighth secret is that he is a 'gentle giant'. Those who can get on with others by being gentle despite their strength avoid the poison of poor relationships which will drain any one of energy and power.
An ninth secret is that Vasyl knows how to celebrate. To his immense delight Vasyl went on to become world champion. When he realized he had won. He fell on his knees and hammered the floor with the palm of his hand. He then walked about yelling and screaming his delight. Finally he patted all 5 atlas stones that he had lifted in the final event. He had won by 1 point and was ecstatic.
A key part of success is being able to imagine yourself celebrating after you have reached your goal. This is a powerful subconscious motivator.
If you know how to celebrate well, your mental pictures of your celebration will be much more powerful and convincing to your subconscious mind.Your subconscious will then make a success arrive which will match your celebration.
Many lessons can be learned from Vasyl, the strongest man in the world in 2004.
1. Get off to a good start and build on early success
2. Welcome the support of your family
3. Do more than you think you can
4. Compete with yourself. Do better than you did before
5. Always give 100%
6. Aim to be the best
7. Focus on your main priority
8. Be gentle with people
9. Celebrate with enthusiasm before and after a challenge.