5 Leadership Anecdotes from Rio Olympics 2016

Unfortunately the 2020 Games planned in Tokyo had to be postponed due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. They are scheduled to be held this year around the end of July. I am sure this one is going to be a spectacle of resilience, hope, courage, gratitude, optimism, teamwork, compassion and leadership as the world slowly limps its way out of this pandemic and looks forward to building a more humane economy.

Till then, let’s take a stroll down the memory lane. Do you remember the last Summer Olympic Games that were held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in 2016? The Olympics is one of the most prestigious sporting spectacles of the world. An Olympic medal is the epitome of sporting achievement. Over the decades, many sports persons have gone on to become legends in Olympic history. Rio 2016 was no different. I have picked up some lessons and inspiring leadership anecdotes from this spectacular event.

Dipa Karmarkar — Persistence Makes Up for All Shortcomings

source: Quartz India/AP

There was a piece of a news article on BBC which revealed that when Dipa Karmakar competed in her first gymnastics competition, she did so without shoes and had borrowed an oversized, ill-fitting costume. She represented India, becoming the first Indian female gymnast ever to compete in the Olympics, and the first Indian gymnast to do so in 52 years. She finished in fourth position in the Women’s Vault Gymnastics event at Rio.

In a country that breathes and lives cricket, pursuing gymnastics as a sport is a tough task. There is a serious lack of infrastructure, resources, and financial support for the sport. These factors didn’t deter Dipa from pursuing her passion. One of the few to pull off the dangerous Produnova maneuver with such ease at Rio Olympics 2016, Dipa is a true champion and has won the admiration and respect of millions all over the world. She didn’t win the gold, but she surely won the hearts of everyone watching the Olympics that night.

Usain Bolt — Set Goals with Riders

source: abc.net.au

Usain Bolt is probably one of the most popular and respected athletes in the world today. He continues to make and break records, that too with a seemingly ridiculous ease and a smile to go with it. The recent picture of him sneaking in a smile for the cameras while sprinting towards the finish line has broken the internet. While his fellow competitors were gasping for breath, he eased past them, that too after a slow start. He has added style, glamor, and fun to the sport, without compromising on the discipline and rigor. His rider – have fun while you are at it.

Michael Phelps — Let Your Failures be Lessons, not Roadblocks

source: CNN.com

In 2009, the decorated US swimmer and Olympian was snapped smoking pot. Overnight Michael Phelps turned from a respected athlete to a disgrace, losing millions in endorsements and being slapped with a 3-month suspension. For most people, such public humiliation would mean a full stop. Not for Phelps. At age 30, he came out of retirement, picked up the pieces, and put his energies on regaining lost glory, the only way he knew. Getting back to the pool and winning medals. With 4 gold medals and one silver, he is now the most decorated Olympian of all time with a tally of 23 medals.

Simone Biles — Excellence by Design, not by Chance

source: Reuters

Simone Biles, touted to be one of the greatest gymnasts, comes from a family with a troubled history; a drug addict mother and an absent father. She has proved by action, that there are no excuses for not taking action. It’s about making choices and then ensuring that the actions match the aspirations. Simone is probably the best embodiment of Yoda’s discourse – “Do or do not, there is no try.”

Yusra Mardini — The Only Limit that Exists is in Your Mind

source: Indian Express

I saved the best for the last! Yusra Mardini, a refugee from war-torn Syria, has captured the attention of millions and has become a source of inspiration for one and all. As part of the 10 member refugee team at Rio Olympics, she made a huge impact by scoring a win in her first Olympic swimming race. There was a time when she used her swimming skills to save herself and 18 others from a capsized boat heading towards Greece. From that to being part of an Olympics team, talks so much about putting your struggles to use, using them as motivation and achieving the impossible.

Which anecdote resonated the most with you? Which other sportsperson impressed you back in 2016?


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