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The 2018 winter Olympics in Pyeongchang are now over. The final tally was quite interesting. Norway led with 39 medals (14 golds), followed by Germany (31 medals, 14 gold) and Canada (29 with 11 gold). The US came in fourth with 23 medals and nine golds. India, as always, was absent from the medal tally, though it did compete in two events (cross country skiing and luge).

My personal interest in this year's winter Olympics was not really in the medal tally, but in what I consider 'comeback kids'. The stories I found truly inspirational were those of elite athletes who stumbled badly, but then got back up and qualified for the Olympics. These athletes had been on top of the game, but for some reason they had lost their footing, then worked hard to get back into the game, and were now trying to regain their standing. Consider, for example, Lindsey Vonn (nee Kildow) who made her Olympic debut in 2002, won her first Olympic gold in 2010 in downhill skiing, but then found her career derailed due to a string of injuries. The seven time downhill World Cup winner did not get the gold in Pyeongchang, but she did make it to the podium with a bronze.

Comebacks are not just for sports people. You can find inspirational stories of second acts in most spheres of life. I am sure you remember Al Gore, the man who lost the American presidency in 2000, but rebuilt himself to win the 2007 Nobel peace prize. There is also Amitabh Bachchan, the BBC Actor of the Millennium, who reached the top of the Indian film industry in the 1970s, almost died in the early 1980s, regained his spot on the top, slipped due to some 'bad' choices he made, but managed to make a phenomenal comeback few could have predicted. And, of course, Steve Jobs, who was kicked out of his company and spent a few years in the wilderness before he came back to helm Apple again and make business history.

The one quality that is common across Vonn, Gore, Bachchan, and Jobs is resilience, the uncommon psychological and behavioral trait that is responsible for some people rising Phoenix like from the ashes. Unfortunately, resilience is a rare quality and we do not do a good job at teaching it in our families or schools. In fact, my experience has been that most of us never really hone our resilience.

This is why I found the book Firing Back (by the authors Jeff Sonnenfeld and Andrew Ward) so interesting and informative. When faced with adversity, most choose 'flight', but only the resilient opt for 'fight', and this is the major difference between those who are able to make a comeback versus those who give up when they are down.

When Vonn got the bronze in Pyeongchang, she also became an easy target for those who wanted to make fun of her. As Frank Sinatra reminds us, many 'get their kicks stompin' on a dream', and for some reason, enjoy the fall of those who have previously been on a pedestal. Just ask Bachchan or Jobs, if you are not convinced about the strange human tendency to take delight in the humiliation of successful others. Vonn may never win another Olympic medal, or she may never even compete in another Olympic event, but Pyeongchang helped her become a poster child for the role of resilience in comebacks.

I may not agree with every choice she made in her career (eg. her unnecessary political commentary), but I admire her determination to make a comeback. It is such human stories that I find most endearing about the Olympics, regardless of which country the medal winners are from.



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