Resilience can be developed over time by practising the 3 psychological attitudes of ‘commitment’, ‘control’ and ‘challenge’. In this article we explore how we can be inspired from those who have learned to become truly resilient after incredible set-backs, namely Paralympians. As events unfold in Rio, it is so difficult to pick just one or two examples, but here are two which exemplify extraordinary resilience in different ways.
Crystal Lane was inspired to take up cycling while watching Sarah Storey winning gold at the 2008 Beijing Paralympic Games on TV. She went on to compete in the London 2012 Paralympics, her best result being fourth in the C5 individual pursuit. Fast forward to Rio 2016 and she claimed silver in the same event, coming second only to her heroine Sarah Storey, who had inspired her 8 years earlier. But that’s not the whole story.
Crystal wasn’t selected for the highly competitive Rio Team GB cycling squad back in June. It was only when the International Paralympic Committee withdrew participation for the Russian Team 12 days before the start of the Paralympics that their places were reallocated meaning Crystal could be selected. When interviewed after winning silver and asked about what shape she was in as a result of the 10 week hiatus, she replied “I had a dream” (to be competing and winning in Rio), so she trained just as hard as ever, so in the 10 weeks after her initial disappointment in June, she was still in great shape - great enough for a silver medal.
Crystal talked a number of times in her interview about having a dream, something I have heard many paralympians say. It is something they can focus on that keeps them going no matter what happens. It strikes me that Crystal also focused on what she could influence (her training schedule) rather than what she couldn’t (the selection process) and in the end of course, that unpredictable selection process turned out ok for her anyway !
Ibrahim Hamadtou is a Paralympic table tennis athlete who lost both arms in a train accident when he was a child. He plays by holding the bat in his mouth, and serves by throwing the ball into the air from the floor, using his right foot. This technique took 3 years of extraordinary effort to learn, but he never gave up. And now, at the age of 43, he has represented Egypt in Rio and become a truly inspiring internet sensation. In an interview after losing his second match in Rio, he said “disability is not in arms or legs, disability is not persevering in whatever you want to do”.
In a short video clip on You Tube he also says this: “my best achievement in life is divided into two parts; the best thing in my life is my wife, who is everything to me.The second part is table tennis, where I find my biggest success, being able to enjoy every point I win”.
The enjoyment of every point is again an area of focus that I imagine helps keep Ibrahim going, and the challenge and learning journey of working out how to serve with his foot and holding the bat in his mouth must have been incredible. He also talks about his wife, and all paralympians mention the importance of their family and their teams, which emphasises another critical aspect of resilience, which is the importance of good support networks.
You can watch Ibrahim on You Tube by searching ‘Ibrahim Hamato – Nothing is Impossible’, or just follow this link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aDdh2439hnU
To read more about how to develop resilience and “boucebackability” over time, go to: