‘What wins is just dogged resilience’ – Olympian Katherine Grainger

What makes a winner? How do you become the best in your field? Earlier this year SwiftKey co-founder and CTO Ben Medlock met Olympic legend Katherine Grainger to discuss these questions.

Katherine is Britain’s most successful rower, winning gold at London 2012 and silver at Beijing 2008, Athens 2004 and Sydney 2000. So she knows a thing or two about persistence and leadership.

The pair met thanks to The Focus magazine who brought them together for a magazine feature asking, “What do Olympians and game-changing entrepreneurs have in common?”

Ben began by quizzing Katherine about her dedication: “How can anyone maintain the raw level of commitment – day in and day out, for years on end – to win a gold medal?”

“Winning a gold medal is the most obvious goal, the ultimate proof that you are good at what you do” – Katherine Grainger

Katherine Grainger replied: “As you can imagine, the training isn’t particularly exciting or glamorous; it is very hard all the time! The one thing that holds you is that amazing ambition, which feels like an unachievable dream for most of the time. It’s what drives you, because it is so special, it is so different, it is so rare. So for me it’s the passion. I just love rowing.

“As you get into the sport, it becomes very obvious why you would want to be on the Olympic team, and why you want to be an Olympic champion. Sports are populated with role models and heroes who have led the way. Winning a gold medal is the most obvious goal, the ultimate proof that you are good at what you do. But if you look to the odds, it is so unlikely from the start that you are going to be Olympic champion. Only a tiny number of people in the world have ever done it. But I guess making it into the world of tech millionaires is pretty rare too and probably takes the same kind of extreme commitment.”

Ben: “I must admit I have a somewhat obsessional personality! I think I could plot my life as a series of obsessions, or perhaps challenges is a nicer way to put it! I have always defined myself by what I do, and that also drives me to achieve. I get so tied up in achieving whatever I’m currently focused on, the thought that I might stop is complete anathema because what I’m doing is so much a part of the way I define myself. So however hard it is, and even if I feel discouraged, I never really think about stopping, because to stop is not to be who I am.”

To read the rest of the interview, check out the latest edition of The Focus in print or read the article online.

Photo credit: The Focus/ Fritz Beck

  • John Robertsen

    A good article, Ben :)

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