Posts Tagged ‘mental’

A Champion’s Mindset

Tuesday, June 12th, 2018

There are moments in sport, add an “s” for my American friends, where supreme champions earn legendary status. Watching Rafael Nadal close out an 11th French Open at Roland Garros and Bob Baffert mastermind a second Triple Crown at Belmont, N.Y. this past weekend, we were witness to two rare examples. In Nadal’s case, the “King of the Clay”, we expect him to win but it really isn’t that easy.

Consider his Quarter Final opponent, Diego Schwatrzman, whose stratospheric rise has taken the diminutive Argentinian from No. 41 to No.11 in the ATP rankings over the past 12 months. He talked last Summer about the importance of his own “mindset” over a relaxed post-victory dinner at Pepes Bodega in the scenic resort stop in Bastad, Sweden.

Here in the Bois de Boulogne, Schwartman, a 5’7″ ball of energy, took the first set off Nadal, and appeared on an unstoppable roll until rain intervened. Returning the next day, Nadal had the strength of character to wipe the next three sets and to savour Schwartzman’s passing comment at the press conference, “He (Nadal) has the best mindset of history.”

3,000 miles west, just east of the New York City limits, at a little before 6pm EST on Saturday, Justify, did just that for legendary West Coast trainer, Bob Baffert’s high opinion of his horse. The 12 furlongs of the “Big Sandy” has scuttled many of Baffert’s and his rivals’ previous contenders for immortality with one rare exception, American Pharoah in 2015.

Coming off two wet-track and gruelling victories in the Kentucky Derby and Preakness, Baffert talked about the importance of the horse’s mindset when the gates opened, and the need to be on the lead at the first turn, to not surrender control of the race. True to form, urged on by his pilot Mike “Big Money” Smith, Justify’s exuberance and determination ensured he grabbed hold of the race early on and ground his rivals into the dirt. What sets Baffert apart is his ability to sustain a champion’s mindset in his best horses when others cannot. Some say, his training approach honed in the unforgiving Quarter Horse world of Arizona is too tough but the results belie that easy line.

Perhaps there is a simple explanation with Nadal and Baffert, we are bystanders watching supreme artists at work. Seeing is truly believing.

© James Berkeley 2018. All Rights Reserved.