“I knew if I went home with a gold medal knowing I could do better, I wasn’t going to be very satisfied.” That is how American snowboarding sensation Chloe Kim explained why, after a top score of 93.75 on her first run at the Pyeongchang Olympics, with no one close, she gave it her all on her third and final run– a run that included her signature back-to-back 1080s (think lots of spins in the air off a wall). The gold already belonged to Chloe, yet that last effort earned her an even higher score of 98.25 from the judges. She said she wanted to “one-up myself.”
Shaun White did the same thing at the Vancouver 2010 Olympics. He too had already won halfpipe gold. Yet, with one more run left, he performed his “double McTwist 1260” which skate boarding legend Tony Hawk describes as “this insanely hard trick.” He landed it – and it became a career defining moment.
As someone who seeks to understand the motivations behind human behavior, I am fascinated by those who achieve the height of their professions. How did they get to the top of their game? For both of these two gold medalist snowboarders, the answer in part resides in an “I can do better” mentality. Interviews of Olympic champions have found that they share traits such as: the ability to focus without distraction, goal setting, being coachable, having confidence and being competitive. But as these two snowboarders have demonstrated, there is also an innate desire to stretch their skill, to achieve more and redefine what it means to be at the top of their field. It is this quest for continuous improvement, to be better and define what “best” is that help fuels their tremendous success. When was the last time you felt that your winning work could have been even better?
As Shaun White has said about his epic run in Vancouver, “I left it all out on the mountain that day.” Turns out he also just did the same (while earning another gold medal) in Pyeonchang!