Stay fo­cused on your goal and your op­por­tu­nity will come

Men's Fitness - - Features -

If sailor Giles Scott hadn’t been re­silient, he would have been nowhere near Rio. He would have walked away years ear­lier.

For a num­ber of years, he had been es­tab­lished as one of the best sailors in the Finn class of boats in the world. His prob­lem was that the Finn was the boat sailed by Ben Ainslie, who was the best Olympic sailor in the world. In 2008, Scott was the young up-and-comer and he went to the Bei­jing Olympic Games as a train­ing part­ner for Ainslie. With that ex­pe­ri­ence be­hind him, he was de­ter­mined to knock him off top spot for London 2012; he won bronze in the world cham­pi­onships in 2010 and gold in the worlds in 2011, so by 2012 he was ab­so­lutely ready to dom­i­nate Olympic com­pe­ti­tion. But Ainslie beat him in the tri­als and was se­lected ahead of him again.

At that point, you would se­ri­ously con­sider walk­ing away, wouldn’t you? The thought never crossed Scott’s mind.


His own story of learned re­sis­tance is fas­ci­nat­ing. In that Ainslie gen­er­a­tion, there was a tri­umvi­rate of great mates: Ainslie, Iain Percy and the late, much-loved An­drew Simp­son. Percy and Simp­son would win gold to­gether in Bei­jing, in the two-man Star class boat. For the Athens Games four years ear­lier, though, it was Simp­son who had played the Scott role: he had lost the Finn tri­als to Ainslie and then gone out to the Games as Ainslie’s train­ing part­ner. So he un­der­stood what Scott was go­ing through, and in Bei­jing he and Percy were full of ad­vice for him. They told him not to ac­cept sec­ond best to Ainslie, to com­pete with him, to go hard. Scott re­calls, “They were ef­fec­tively telling me to man up and take Ben on more. They were amus­ing con­ver­sa­tions but quite odd re­ally, be­cause the three of them were very good friends but they also wanted each other to be pushed as hard as pos­si­ble. I went away and thought about it: yes, ac­tu­ally they’re not wrong.”

So, in 2008, Scott was obliged to toughen up against Ainslie. In 2012, he ful­filled the cliché of learn­ing the hard way: his pun­ish­ment stim­u­lus – like the play­ers in the GB sev­ens squad – was to miss se­lec­tion. He says he learned ruth­less­ness from Ainslie too. “There was re­ally no bet­ter per­son to learn from. With­out him, I think my re­silience wouldn’t be as good, my ap­proach to train­ing, com­pet­ing, cam­paign­ing wouldn’t be as pro­fes­sional. My sail­ing skill-set wouldn’t have been de­vel­oped as well. I mean it.”

Af­ter 2012, Ainslie re­tired from the Finn class and Scott was more than ready to take over. He won gold in the world cham­pi­onships in 2014, 2015 and again in 2016. When it came to Rio, noth­ing was go­ing to stop him win­ning gold there too.

The Tal­ent Lab: The Se­crets Of Cre­at­ing And Sus­tain­ing Suc­cess by Owen Slot with per­for­mance direc­tors Si­mon Tim­son and Chelsea Warr is out now, RRP £20 (Ebury Press)

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