Many people set personal goals (particularly in January). The disciplined, or lucky, people reach those desired goals and may find personal success. Others may just dismiss the goal as too difficult and retreat to a more comfortable state. The more ambitious among us will tirelessly pursue a goal and push themselves as close to their limit as possible using discipline, trial-and-error, or any means possible to hone their skills.

“You may encounter many defeats, but you must not be defeated. In fact, it may be necessary to encounter the defeats, so you can know who you are, what you can rise from, how you can still come out of it.” – Maya Angelou

Reaching a desired state is one thing, maintaining it requires another set of skills: courage, sacrifice, perseverance, diligence, craftsmanship, knowledge, strategy, patience, discipline, and application. These are some of the ingredients in the recipe to create a champion.

What sets champions apart from those who achieve fleeting success?

I pondered over this question the past few days since witnessing Roger Federer defeat Rafael Nadal on Sunday night in the Australian Open Tennis Final. The media made a point of Federer’s age, and the number of Grand Slam titles that decorated his long tennis career. The odds were against Federer as Nadal’s stats put him in a stronger position to win, yet Federer won!

Roger Federer. Photo credit: Getty Images

It was rare to see professional athletes in tennis over 30 playing at this level of the competition, but it was also made possible by these incredible sportspeople. This was extremely inspiring. I sat there glued to both the women’s and men’s finals in awe of their strength, stamina, and pure passion for their craft. It was a defiant statement by these finalists that age is another arbitrary limit we may set for ourselves. The hunger for the prize overpowered the odds and in Roger Federer and Serena Williams’ case, their determination defied expectation.

Longevity is the word that comes to mind when I think of the likes of Roger Federer. His legacy as an athlete is more than his statistics. He radiates grace, humility, and respect for his opponents and even in his triumph he congratulated Nadal and his team for their hard work.

A true champion not only demonstrates the technical mastery in their craft but they ooze charisma, sportsmanship, class, and sincerity. Roger is that champion to me and when I struggle to be at my best, I think of people like him who exhibit qualities that I admire. Then, I push myself to be resilient in the face of adversity.

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