Generation X and the Millennial Generation, as a whole, have a reputation for being unsteady and erratic. If we can see past the pre-HD quality and crooked graphics, there is certainly a lot we can learn from 1972 Olympic 800-Meter Gold Medalist, Dave Wottle.
Here is a link for the race that many Baby Boomers consider to be a top American Olympic achievement. After watching, you might agree.
The events of the race will deceive you at first. Ostensibly, Dave is erratically off pace or in the speculation of the announcer, potentially “…seriously injured…”1 For the first half of the race, two Kenyan runners push the field to an unsustainable degree. Favorite Evgeni Arzhanov does not try to stay step-for-step with the Kenyans, but changes pace enough to not fall as far behind as does Dave. You cannot blame the Ukrainian; even Dave, when he watches the video, has a hard time believing he is going to win from his position in the final 100 meters. As Dave pushes to the front at the very end you might think he is making up for a slow start or that he strategically saved it all for the last 100 meters. Both observations would be inaccurate.
Dave Wottle was battling tendonitis before the Olympics and was not on his regular training regimen. If not for this, Dave would not have given fifteen yards to the back of the pack in the early frenzy. As it unfolded, Dave ran nearly identical 200-meter splits, a model of steadiness. Twenty-six seconds for each quarter of the race was enough to beat the favorite “…by 0.03 seconds…”2
“Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize?
Run in such a way as to get the prize.” 1 Corinthians 9:24 (NIV 1984)
We all want to win the prize but steadiness is too seldom our goal. Steadiness can give people the impression that we are slow starters and it will rarely make us stand out from the crowd, at least not in a positive way.
I count it a blessing that I got to know Dave personally while consulting with Rhodes College, where he presided as Dean for twenty-nine years. Dave has been married to his wife Jan for forty years this summer. Do you want to run the race to win? Imitate the steadiness of Dave Wottle.
1. Unknown broadcast partner to Jim McKay, ABC Sports, Olympic coverage