THE ATHLETE GILES SCOTT THE LESSON BE PATIENT
Stay focused on your goal and your opportunity will come
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.
BEST OF THREE
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.
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