Olympics Special: This is a post that I wrote a few years back. As it’s such a great story and very topical at the moment, I thought I’d re-post.
In the winter Olympics of 1964 in Innsbruck the Austrians and Italians were favourites for the top two medals, but when the Canadians, who were only given an outside chance, finished their first run they had a new Olympic record and half a second avantage on the rest of the field. They also had a problem! While rounding the last turn they damaged their sled’s axel and were in danger of not being allowed to continue.
However, when Victor Emery, the Canadian driver, returned to the top of the hill for his second run, he found Eugenio Monti and his Italian team’s mechanics had stripped down the Canadian sled and were feverishly attempting to fix the problem.
Canada managed to continue racing, keep their lead and take gold. Monti’s Italian team took bronze.
Later in the two man bob, Tony Nash of Great Britain recorded the fastest first run and lead the field, but one of the bolts holding the runners to the sled had sheared off. When Monti heard the news he said, “Get an Englishman and a spanner to the finish and they can have my bolt.” Going against the questioning of mystified Italians watching, the bolt was carried to top and attached to the British sled. Britain went on to take gold; the Italians bronze again.
Monti understood something that so many people today do not get. His success did not depend on someone else’s failure. Today we have an entire industry built around shooting other people down. Gossip magazines, reality TV. We read and watch them so we can see how much better we are than other people. We measure our success by how far ahead we are of others. It takes less effort on our part than actually achieving something ourselves.
Eugenio Monti was quoted after the games saying, “Nash didn’t win because I gave him the bolt, he won because he had the fastest run.” Monti didn’t want to win unless he was racing against other competitors at their best.
Monti knew that pulling others down does not make us better and being better than the next person does not make us a success. Being the best WE can be makes us a success.
By the way – He took gold in both the four and two man bob four years later Grenoble.