Olympic glory is a one-shot deal and, as such, the Games make a perfect stage for clutch performances.
For most athletes, you go. You take your result, good or bad. You accept that four years from now someone younger, faster and stronger will have relegated you to competitive obsolescence. Imagine then the strength of mind it takes to perform at one’s best in the context of such finality.
Consider what the following American athletes had to overcome, both within and without, to become their very best selves when the moment demanded it.
Although it has been obscured in later years by the scoring controversy over his gold medal, there’s no denying Paul Hamm’s resolve in the most crucial moments of the 2004 men’s gymnastics individual all-around competition.
After a spectacular fall on the vault, Hamm stood 12th with just two rotations left. The podium was a long shot, much less Olympic gold.