What Makes An Olympic Champion?


What Are The Characteristics Of An Olympic Champion

With the Olympic Games in PyeongChang being less than 10 days away I am pulling out all of my old Team USA Gear, getting the couch cushions prepared to be jumped on and warming up my vocal cords for all of the cheering I will be doing as soon as the Opening Ceremonies begin.  I am one of the biggest Olympic junkies I know and it hasn’t waned one bit since I retired in 2010!!

But all of this excitement got me thinking about what makes an Olympian successful when the stakes are so high and this is their one opportunity to turn their dream into a reality?  What are the characteristics that I believe will help them bring home the gold.  So, after a lot of thought and reflection into my own career here are my answers:


100% Belief In Your Training and Preparation

When these athletes step into the starting gate and they are asked “Olympian Ready” they have to be truly, 100%, without a shadow of a doubt READY for this moment.  There should be no doubts of “what if” or “if only” or “I should have,” etc.  These leave a crack in your armor and can give you the self doubt that will most certainly not allow you to compete your best.  When I stood in the gate in all 3 of my Olympic Games I knew beyond anything that I deserved to be there, I was more mentally and physically prepared than my competition, I gave my body rest when it needed it and pushed it to the limits when I could, I did everything in my power to prepare me for that moment.  This kind of believe in yourself and your training is an absolute must to perform up to your potential and sometimes beyond!! 


Focusing On The Process Not The Product

Each and every Olympian that will be competing has a pretty good idea of the type of performance it is going to take to win.  I believe that an athlete that focuses on the process (my knees need to be tight together, I need to have my hands forward and moving down the hill , my vision needs to be 8 moguls ahead, explode with my legs when I get to the top of my jump) versus the product (I want to win a gold medal) will be successful.  The reason is because if you just focus on the product you don’t remember all of the small tasks you need to perform to achieve that product.  Focus on the process and you will always find more Golden Moments!  When I looked down the Olympic mogul course I knew each of the 423 things (ok, maybe not THAT many, lol)  that I needed to execute and if I did those to the BEST of my ability, I knew a medal (or at least the best performance I could give) would come!


Living In The Olympic Moment

The "Olympic Spirit" is something that is extremely hard to explain but when you embrace it, feel it within you and are connected with it, success will come.  As Olympians we truly get only one chance every four years to shine and if these athletes appreciate that, accept that and rise up to that feeling without fear, they will have success. 


Grit and Determination

I have never met an Olympian where the results came “easy.”  Maybe an Olympian had a lucky performance but to truly be great and stay on top of your game, grit and determination has to come into play.  Olympians are plagued with injuries and setbacks but that is just the catalyst to discovering how deep your desire to win truly is.  How you come back after you are knocked down is what sets the winning athletes apart.  When you have failed and found a way to win again is what makes true champions.  You can see it in their eyes in the starting gate, do they have grit, do they have determination, how badly do they want to win, what have they overcome to make this moment real?  The look in a competitors eyes is truly telling and I can’t wait to see which athletes have “the look!"


Having An Olympic Plan

I found it extremely helpful to try to know EVERYTHING that might happen during the Olympics and have a plan for it.  What to do with family, friends and sponsorship obligations?  How do I manage training and competition times and travel?  What could the weather possibly be?  What food is available to me and how best can my body be fueled? What is the sleeping arrangement and lodging look like?  Do I have enough “me” time?  How can I adjust to the time change?  What are the doping control policies?  What kind of equipment problems can I have and how can I fix them?  Do I have everything I need to be as successful as possible?  Do I walk in the Opening Ceremonies?  How do I deal with 2.3 billion people watching me?  All of these questions and scenarios need to be addressed and a plan put into place.  As much as I was a “fly by the seat of my pants” kind of gal it helped reassure me that I had thought of everything that could happen and have a plan on how to deal with it.  I was 100% prepared.

So now as I patiently wait for the Opening Ceremonies to commence, you know what I am looking for in a true Olympic Champion.  Some athletes are expected to win medals but what makes the Olympics the best EVER is that new Champions will emerge, new dreams will come true and we will all fall in love with a new generation of Olympians!!  Bring it on!!!!!!!


If you are interested in allowing me to share some of my Olympic Spirit with you and your company please click HERE to learn more about my new company Team Empower Hour and what we have to offer or hire me for a keynote speech!  Thank you and may the Olympics begin.!!!

Shannon Happe