As the Olympic Trials wind down and national teams prepare for London, it is clear that there is something special about Olympic athletes. Like others in their respective sport, they are talented and hard-working individuals who enjoy a good deal of support from family, friends and colleagues. Yet, these Olympians seem to harbor traits that set them apart.
Despite their success and self-confidence, few (if any) are arrogant or egotistical. Rather, their achievement reflects their competitive spirit, their courage in the face of adversity and, perhaps most importantly, an unwillingness to concede defeat. This latter trait, which might be defined as heart, is found in all champions, from race horses to long-distance runners to heavyweight boxers. When the margin of victory is razor thin or when endurance plays a major role, heart is especially vital.
Of course, this trait is not confined to sports. While some owe their success to good fortune, most champions of human society possess this same competitive spirit; facing obstacles that discourage their rivals, they have the heart to persevere. Heart is, indeed, a human trait which seems to require a delicate mix of genetic, familial and cultural factors. Alas, in most individuals, it never reaches full expression.