I have been doing some research for an piece on mental toughness. I remembered a couple of examples, one good one bad, of how mental toughness helps or hinders athletes in other areas. One comes from this Gladwell peice on ‘The Art of Failure‘, I really like his work and Blink and The Tipping point are very good reads indeed.
In this article he talks about Jana Navotna crumbling under pressure just 5 point from winning wimbledon. I found a video, and if you can’t be bothered to read Gladwell’s Piece I will explain quickly. Jana had lost the first set on a close tie breaker, and then blitzed the second set 6-1 (or maybe 2?). She was then 4-1 up in the final set, and serving for what would have been her 5th game in that set. The video is a clip from a programme on choking.
Gladwell uses it to talk about performance catastrophes, where as I think it shows that her lack of mental toughness may have contributed. The video is harrowing, and if you have time, watch the medal ceremony, as Jana pretty much breaks down into the Duchess of Kents shoulder. I went and found fottage of the whole game and watch from this crucial point to the end.
The second video is for me equally moving for better reasons, a Russian gymnast is competing in the World Championship in 1975. As she goes for the dismount the whole apparatus collapses. She saves her landing, salutes the audience and judges and turns away from the aparatus, and never looks back. Putting the incident behind her literally and metaphorically, I think she went onto win the all-round individual and individual events in all 5 disciplines!
Enjoy the vidoe’s and remember Hang Tough in a mental stylee!