Black on the track to the top
Friday 12th April 2002 11:45
There are five qualities that define all champions, former Olympic athlete Roger Black told conference delegates in his post-lunch motivational speech, courtesy of Aramark.
The winner of the silver medal in the individual 400m at the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta and a member of the UK's most successful 4 x 400m relay team, said all top sports figures - from David Beckham to Martina Navratilova - shared these characteristics.
They are: a burning desire to be the best; the need to achieve; the skill for setting goals; the capacity for hard work, and the ability to work under pressure.
Black explained: "Look at André Agassi - he came back from nowhere to become the only man in the modern era to win all four majors. Not because he wanted the money, not because he wanted the fame, but because he didn't want to put out the flame inside himself - he still had a burning desire to be the best."
Similarly, top-class athletes do not compete because they want a medal, said Black, but because of their need to achieve.
"Take Sir Steve Redgrave, who won five Olympic golds over 22 years. He was diagnosed with diabetes after the Atlanta Olympics, but came back to win his record-breaking fifth gold medal in Sydney in 2000."
On the subject of setting goals, Black told delegates: "You have to set goals in the world of sport - short-term goals that lead to your ultimate goal."
Champions implement a training programme and keep training, he continued. "The most important relationship you have and the single greatest asset are the people you train with and work with - the people who want to go to the same places and achieve the same things as you. You can achieve so much more through synergy with someone or with a group."
Champions deliver every time when the pressure is most on them, Black declared. "When you walk out into that stadium, with the hopes of a nation fixed on your shoulders and a billion people watching you on television and then a guy tells you that you have to wait for 10 minutes so the TV commercials can run, that's pressure. But if you stand behind the starting line and have those five fundamentals, the chances are you're going to deliver."
During his speech, Black also explained how he had battled through adversity - having a broken foot and being out of sport for three years - in order to achieve what he had.
And he also revealed that he believed achieving something with a team - in his case the 4 x 400m relay team - was even more special than personal achievement.
"Individual success is great, but when you succeed with other people, you have a bond with them for the rest of your life," he said.
Delegate Phil Callus, chef lecturer at Rotherham College, Yorkshire, commented: "You can apply a lot of the things Roger talked about to the kitchen - especially the team bonding, and personal motivation stuff."