How Badly Do You Want It? Olympic Proportions

“It’s not the size of the dog in the fight, it’s the size of the fight in the dog.”

I mention this sometimes to small and medium sized businesses who think they can’t compete against bigger companies.

Consider the recent Olympics, and the remarkable Jamaican wins in the men’s and women’s 100m and 200m events (by Usain Bolt and Veronica Campbell-Brown, in case you missed the news). How can such a tiny and relatively poor country find and train people who can top the best that the US and China — both incomparably more wealthy and populous — can bring to the task?

Despite any genetic advantages posited by Jamaican and British researchers*, I’d have to argue that it’s more about drive: focus + intensity + desire. With these three things, the Jamaicans were able to assemble their luck, intelligence, and effort into winning these events. A “twelve-year effort”, according to one Jamaican racing coach who was quoted by an American coach in a recent radio interview.

Or consider team sports, like World Cup Soccer. The current top-ranked team is Spain, population 45 million. If it were just about numbers, you’d think that the US with its 300 million people could find 20-some guys who could play soccer better than the Spaniards. But it isn’t happening. The US team is currently ranked 31st. Before they take on Spain, they might consider pushing past 5th-ranked Croatia (4.5 million) or even 25th-ranked Côte d’Ivoire (population 18.3 million, per capita GDP $1,800).**


*Professor Errol Morrison, president of the University of Technology (Utec) in Kingston, whose research is quoted in “It’s all in the genes: New theory suggests Jamaican runners are born to Bolt like Usain”, UK Daily Mail, 6 August 2008.  Link.

**FIFA rankings from Soccerphile. Population and GDP data from Wikipedia.

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