I have always loved watching the Olympic games for so many reasons. To begin with, the Opening Ceremonies with the pageantry of the parade of nations is unparalleled. For me, that means pride at cheering my parents’ Brazil and Hungary teams, then the USA team, of course. Then there are the Greeks who started it all and the warm hospitality of the host nation. And for the Winter games, we cheer all the unlikely tropical countries like Jamaica... And then there are the athletics.
Non-Olympic skiers at the top of their game.
There’s nothing quite like seeing someone at the top of their game. And every Olympian’s path was paved with long hours of training and dedication – in some cases a lifetime. Every athlete - even those emerging without medals inspire me because simply competing at that level is a pinnacle of achievement. It’s an apt reminder that some of the most rewarding triumphs are the ones that are earned through sheer, hard effort. And not just random effort – it’s both deliberate and purpose-driven.
This year’s Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia delivered an early surprise that initially did not sit well with me, but I got over myself and eventually gained a very important lesson.
American snowboarder Sage Kotsenburg won the very first gold medal of the 2014 Winter Olympics in the men’s snowboard slopestyle event. I wasn’t even aware that slopestyle had become an Olympic event, but no matter – it’s fun to watch and undoubtedly difficult. The surprise for me was to learn that Kotsenburg used a trick in his winning run that he’d never tried before – he literally “winged it” during an Olympic event and then freely chatted about it to the press in interviews.
I was stunned that someone would do something so risky in such an important moment of their athletic career, and then I was equally stunned that he would be so cavalier about it. He added his own flair to the event and executed it beautifully, essentially ad-libbing the performance, and was handsomely rewarded as a result. It was such a contrast to the careful, measured precision characterized by almost any other Olympic event. And as I heard the report on the radio the following day with his comments, it seemed like a slap in the face to all the other Olympians that competed in the seemingly more structured, established events where a hundredth of a second can make a difference in the medal earned.
Once I got over my initial reaction, there was no denying that Sage Kotsenburg is a talented athlete with many hours of training on the slopes in his history. And he competed in an event that’s new, fresh and full of new approaches and perspectives. At these Olympics, Kotsenburg won his event fair and square by embracing the looseness and individuality of the sport, the nature of which holds an important lesson for marketers. Read More