What Defines a Champion?

What’s the difference between the person who wins, and everyone else? Given that my goal in this sport is to be THAT person at the Olympics, this is a question that I have spent a lot of time thinking about. I haven’t figured out the answer, I don’t know that there even is one answer, but I am starting to get an impression of one big piece of the puzzle. The Laser class is extremely competitive. If you look at these past Rio Olympics, there were 8 guys who could have won a medal, and nobody would have been all that surprised. If you go even further, I would say pretty comfortably that the top 30 guys in the laser fleet are at a very similar level as far as technique and tactics. Sure, everyone has their strengths and weaknesses, but if there was a way to objectively evaluate the top 30 guys on all of the technical and tactical skills involved in racing a Laser, I think everyone’s total scores would be fairly similar. Yet, some people win, and others don’t. So, what’s the difference? In the end, not surprisingly, I’ve realized that more than any technical or tactical skill; it comes down to mindset. So, where is this all coming from? Well, these past few days, I competed in the Sail Sydney regatta. It was actually a great regatta for me. I finished in 7th, which is one of my best results in a high quality (although small) fleet. However, one of the biggest things that stood out to me is that I don’t,  yet, have that winning mindset. There is one race in particular that stands out. I executed a good first beat, and got to the top mark in 2nd place, right behind the leader. From there my focus changed. Instead of focusing on fighting for every inch, and trying to win the race, I was thinking, “wow, 2nd is a really good result for me. There are a lot of good sailors behind me, let’s just make sure they don’t pass me.” That’s not a winning mindset. That’s definitely not the mindset of someone who wins races or regattas. For sure, confidence is a part of it. If you believed that you were the best sailor in the fleet, and that you deserved to be at the front, if you were anywhere else, you would fight to get back there. Confidence is something that will be built over time, but I’m not there yet. I am, however, someone who believes strongly that any skill can be trained, I and don’t see “mindset” as being an exception to that. The first step to training a skill is realizing that there is a skill to be trained; that’s where I am at right now. I don’t see this as being all that different from any other technical or tactical weakness that needs to improve. Awareness is the first step.

The Sail Sydney regatta was my last one of 2016. I will now have some time off with my family, and then start off the New Year with some fitness testing and gym work in early January before getting back in the boat in Miami in preparation for the Miami World Cup event at the end of the month. Since this is my last post of the year, I though I would end it with some numbers from this past year:

Kilometers of air travel: 102, 159

Kilometers of road travel: 6,835

Hours on the water: 578

World ranking improvement: 223

Venues sailed at: 17

Regattas competed in: 15

Countries travelled to for sailing: 9

It’s been a good year. Looking forwards to an even better 2017!

Happy Holidays, Merry Christmas, and Happy New Year!



Fillah KarimComment