Why Winning Matters
By: John Denvert
By Dr. Jeff Spencer
When I was 21-years old, I was living in a garage in Pasadena, California, a suburb of Los Angeles, with ambitions of making the 1972 United States Olympic Cycling Team as a sprint cyclist to compete in the Munich Olympics.
The garage I lived in had a small bed that I shoved into the garage corner closest to the small floor heater that I slid towards and away from me. I'd try to find the sweet spot for best temperature, along with taking on and off the number of moving van blankets I'd pile on top of myself to keep me warm.
The goal was to get to sleep without roasting or freezing. I'll come back to the garage in just a moment.
On December 17 2012, I was contacted by Charles Osgood of the CBS Sunday Morning television show, and asked if I thought winning was important. Without hesitation I said that winning is absolutely important and the biggest reason was that I'd never met a person who could wait to get up and fail. Never seen it. Can you imagine that? Someone actually getting up to deliberately fail? Of course not; that is absurd.
I continued saying winning is important because every success honors the privilege of life and our talents. It says thank you to our parents who gave us our gene pool and the chance at life; to our friends who are always there in the peaks and valleys; to our mentors who selflessly give to us without any expectation of anything in return; to those who give us financial or resource help.
However, most of all, winning shows others through example that having a higher quality of life is possible when the correct actions are taken.
Now, back to the garage. While living in the garage I was a student at the University of Southern California studying sports science on an educational opportunity grant.
I came from a welfare family.
To succeed at my studies and Olympic aspirations, I attached a metal platform to my bicycle's handlebars on which I clipped index cards with my homework outlined, so I could study while riding the 80-mile round trip to and from school each day.
I also trained on the velodrome, the bicycle track that is like riding a bicycle in a teacup. One day an impeccably dressed man of short stature with a French accent showed up at the velodrome to watch myself and other riders train. There was an uncharacteristic dignity and confidence about this man that I was intrigued by and wanted to know more about.
After one of my training session several weeks later the man introduced himself to me as "Alex" and gave me his business card and asked me to stop by his business on my way home from training.
Once inside Alex's business, a butcher shop with delicatessen, I was mesmerized by the display cases full of amazing meat dishes with spectacular garnishes that reminded me of how hungry I was after that day's particularly difficult training.
As if reading my mind, Alex appeared handing a sandwich, and told me as I wolfed the sandwich down how he had grown up in France loving cycling and that he was working on producing an international cycling competition to bring the world's top cyclist to the velodrome to compete. Boy, did the prospects of competing against the world's best get me excited.
At the end of our conversation, Alex told me the white package on top of the display case was for me. Surprised, I picked up the package and immediately saw that it was a week's worth of meat-the week's worth of meat I needed to get through the tough training week I was in but didn't have the money to buy.
Again, it was as if Alex had read my mind. How did he know that I was on my last dime and agonizing as to how I would get the food I needed to train at the highest level?
Several months later I was shocked, again, to open my mailbox and receive an invitation to compete in the United States Grand Prix, the international cycling competition Alex mentioned to me he was working on when I first met him at his butcher shop.
I had never competed at that level before but was anxious to do so. After a rigorous regimen, I wasn't surprised when I qualified for the 500-meter final event at the
As I was on my bicycle getting ready for the start of the 500-meter final, I glanced over my shoulder at the rider to my right and saw five interlocking colored rings on his left shoulder signifying him as the current Olympic Champion.
Man, I thought to myself, this is crazy, here I am starting next to the Olympic Champion, and, it's unbelievable how big his legs are. I next glanced to my left and this time saw a brilliant white jersey with concentric colored rings all the way around the jersey at chest level.
There's only one person who wears this jersey every year and that's the world champion. So, here I was, an unproven upstart sandwiched between the Olympic and World Champions competing in my first international final. I was conscious of that as the start of the event neared and knew the final I was about to compete in was a life make it or break it moment.
At that moment, I fully committed to putting absolutely everything I had into every pedal stroke and holding nothing back, completely willing to risk it all to have the chance to win.
When the starting gun fired I stood up and pushed on the right pedal as if pushing my foot through the kitchen floor and the bike lunged forward and with each successive pedal stroke my bike picked up speed like a rocket-propelled locomotive.
Heading into the last corner, I was leading by a bike length when the World and Olympic Champions edged up along side my back wheel when suddenly, ka-bam!
The Olympic Champion body slammed my right side stalling my momentum enough for the World Champion to beat me by a tire width at the finish line.
After crossing the finish line a few seconds later I was crushed at what could have been my first international gold medal had it not been for the contact. However, the crowd's frenzied applause softened the sting as I had just made my first international podium winning the silver medal.
During the podium ceremony the pride I felt when the silver medal was put around my neck was indescribable. Life couldn't have been any better.
As I stepped off the podium I saw Alex walking through the infield and instantly pushed my way through the security, press and fans to connect with him. Once I caught up with him I put my hand on his shoulder. As he turned around there was a tear in his left eye that I knew was for me because I had just won the silver medal.
After we hugged and celebrated my victory I placed my hands on his shoulders and looked him straight in the eye and without saying a word I took the silver off my neck and placed it around his and said, "Thank you for making the impossible possible, I couldn't have done it without you."
That's why winning matters.
About the Author Dr. Jeffrey Spencer, Olympic cyclist and International "Sports Chiropractor of the Year", is often called the champion's champion because he enables the impossible through his proven "Champion's Blueprint" method to help his clients win big whether it be in sports, business, or life.
Spencer has worked with PGA, WTA and NASCAR champions, World Series MVP Troy Glaus, rock legend U2, ultra-successful businesspeople, and NFL, and MLB athletes, as well as Motocross and Formula 1 drivers. Spencer received his master's and undergraduate degree from University of Southern California in Sports
Science and his doctor of chiropractic degree summa cum laude from Cleveland Chiropractic College in Los Angeles.
He has taught post-graduate sports rehabilitation, and lectures on peak human performance. Dr. Spencer's is author of, Turn It Up! How To Perform At Your Highest Level For A Lifetime. Please visit www.jeffspencer.com for more information.