Consider this. In the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta, 32 hundredths of a second separated all the finishers of the Men’s 100-meter final
1. Donovan Bailey CAN 9.84
2. Frankie Fredericks NAM 9.89
3. Ato Boldon TRI 9.90
4. Dennis Mitchell USA 9.99
5. Mike Marsh USA 10.00
6. Davidson Ezinwa NGR 10.14
7. Michael Green JAM 10.16
*Linford Christie GBR DSQ
Every one of these athletes had a chance to win. Each had been well prepared for the race — world-class coaching, impeccable training, sound nutrition, and superb medical care. But the difference between winning and losing often rests above the shoulders. If you don’t believe it, just ask Linford Christie. Mental mistakes caused him to false start twice and disqualify himself. Years and years of training out the door.
Even in instances where technology plays a significant role, mental factors are critical. The clap skate in speed skating and the catamaran in sailing are good examples. These advances in equipment design provided an incredible advantage to those who recognized their value and were willing and able to make the switch. These athletes risked a great deal to make the change. They made calculated decisions under pressure-laden conditions. They were adaptable and flexible in approach and worked incredibly hard under severe time constraints to succeed. Even the most physically talented athletes will lose when they can’t adjust quickly to new technology or when they don’t make a timely change because they fail to recognize the impact of advancing science in their sport.
In golf, technology has made the game “easier” for everyone. Balls go further, clubs are larger and more forgiving. The PGA has recognized that these technological advances are not always in the game’s best interest even though they often give an edge to the players. In the interest of maintaining the integrity of the game, the PGA places limitations on the type of equipment that can be used.
Who do you think will be in the best position to win when everyone uses equipment of substantially the same quality?
History has shown time and again it’s the athlete who can handle the pressure, the one with the mental edge that gains the advantage.