The Power of Persistence –Life lessons from Sport

The Mixed Martial Artist and UFC champion George St-Pierre echoed the timeless wisdom, “it is not the best fighter who wins but the fighter who fights best.”

Both the men’s and women’s finals of the French Open Tennis tournament 1999 couldn’t have been more perfect illustrations of this life principle. The strange turn of events which led to Martina Hingis’s squandering of her one set lead over Steffi Graf, portrays perfectly why it is often the snail and not the hare who crosses the finish line first. Whatever your preferred sport, , there are lessons to be gleaned from these historic and dramatic turnarounds in the theatre of sport.

Similarly in life, we all need to nurture hope for dramatic turnarounds in our favour.

Hingis seemed to be cruising to a straight sets win over Graf until she became overly flustered over a line call on the opposite side of the net.

Lesson 1: what you decide to dwell on can either make or break you.

It was a very public stage on which one so young, primed and rearing for success had to learn that it is not everyday that you will be destiny’s child. Everything, from the crowd and the wind, seemed to be against her, but ultimately she was her own worst enemy.

Lesson 2: We all have the potential to be our own best friend or worst enemy depending on our attitude to our setbacks.

A killer instinct must always be tempered by graciousness and good humour which seemed to elude Hingis during the match. The killer instinct must never replace common sense which clearly did not inform her decision to serve underhand twice in an effort to catch her opponent off guard. Indeed, the most lasting lessons of life are invariably doled out with a degree of discomfort. She must have felt more than slightly embarrassed by the fact that she was within three points of winning the match and tournament, yet failed to convert these opportunities to a victory.  

Lesson 3: Sooner or later, we will all make an embarrassing mistake. It’s how we react to it that ultimately defines us.

Destiny rewarded Andre Agassi for his tenacity and unquenchable faith. His opponent, Andrei Medvedev, also came  within a hare’s breath of victory, but had the wisdom and maturity to defer to his victorious opponent. He conceded with the utmost sportsmanship,  “It was an honour to come so close to beating such a great player.”[paraphrase]  Agassi made stunning history, Graf amazed us, Medvedev won our hearts and Hingis shocked us.


What about us? We too, as individuals, have the potential to interrupt the perceived inevitability of our life’s circumstances, and re-write our personal history. It’s never too late to start. Why not start today!

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