The wrestler is 50 feet from the mat, and he knows it’s now or never. Will he win and make history, or will he lose and become a mere footnote for trivia buffs?
An energizing surge of confidence permeates his primed being. His tested mind now turns over the “heavy lifting” to the bodily being. Now at center mat, the world’s greatest contest, the Olympics, starts. Face to face with his final opponent, he prepares as the whistle blows—the signal for him to engage forcibly.
Through exact focus and mental visualization, he’s rehearsed moves and counter moves hundreds of times, saving the successful clips in his mental hard drive.
This partisan mixture of mental preparation and physical rehearsing remains efficient levers in competition. But it is not the primal influence.
Confidence—check that, the courage required to step onto an Olympic stage—suffuses every fiber of his being. Day by day, week after week, he’s built a rock-solid foundation of unshakeable confidence. Audacity remains stored until competition ignites kinetic adventure. But from where does this audacious courage originate in this Olympic athlete?
Whether on an Olympic stage or onto a battlefield, the courage to step forward comes not from hedonism, but rather from something intensely more motiving than self.
This desire could be to protect your country with your life, as did our brother Steve.
Or it can be a fainter strain of courage that does not require sacrificing your life, but perhaps as principled as helping your family secure a better life—as was my origin of courage.
The paradox of sport is that, while we spend a majority of our time preparing physically for the contest, the contest is 90 percent mental.
Leading up to a match or, in the Olympics finals, The Match, the conversation with our inner voice is continuous. Self-debate runs the gambit from technical maneuvers to the opponents whom you have dominated to get to this moment, this time—this Olympic stage.
T-minus one and counting before my Olympic finale: my thoughts, one brick at a time, support the mental foundation that is necessary to step toward the blue and red-ringed Olympic wrestling mat.
With each advancing step from the warm-up room toward the big mat, an inversion occurs: the cheering fans intensify their support, but my mind and senses cancel the uproar—impenetrable as if in a bank’s steel vault—and converge to the undertaking ahead with purity of purpose and absolute single-mindedness.
And it is a higher purpose that orders my attention toward the mat. It is, however, adrenaline that impulses me to face the enemy. My faith-borne courage, stunningly, calms me to make a difference for my family—and the generation ahead.
Courage, the most primal virtue, empowers me in slipping the bonds of fear.