The Inside Track - What You Didn’t See on TV


Reflections and insight from Olympian Janine Usher

It has been said that the great artist Pablo Picasso was drawing in the park when a woman approached him.

It’s you – Picasso, the great artist! Oh, you must sketch my portrait!” she insisted.

Picasso agreed, continuing to create the lady’s portrait with just a single pencil stroke. He then gave the woman his work.

It’s perfect!” she said, before continuing to ask how much she owed the young artist.

Five thousand dollars”, Picasso replied.

The woman was shocked, asking “how can you charge so much money for a picture that just took you a moment to draw!?

To which Picasso responded, “Madame, it took me my entire life”.


I love this story as I feel it captures the essence of the preparation, determination and hard work that goes into any Olympian’s race or performance, which lasts just a fraction of the time spent in preparation. The Olympics only come around every 4 years, so that’s a long time to train for a 2 minute race. And, whilst you may see the short race or performance, you definitely don’t see the countless hours or practice and preparation that every Olympian puts in.

So, let me tell you my story.

School life was tiring. I would be awake and out of bed before 5AM at least 3 mornings each week, as my parents would drive me to the swimming pool for a 2 hour swimming session before school. Then, every night after school I’d return to the pool for another 2 hour practice session, completing my homework or occasionally training at the gym shortly after. I would start the weekends with an early morning session on Saturdays, before using the rest of the time to recover and be ‘normal’, before training inevitably resumed on Monday morning.

University life was hardly different. Each week I would practise swimming 10 times each week, whilst also going to at least 3 weights sessions and 2 circuit training sessions. This was, of course, whilst studying full-time for my Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees, which I found incredibly tough.

This was my life for 50 weeks of the year, no breaks for Christmas or Birthdays, for a number of years.

But, despite the painful training sessions and incessant exhaustion, I managed to believe in what I was doing. Sacrifices were made and parties were missed. And yet, I feel the preparation, dedication and hard work paid off. By 16, I had flown out to Atlanta to compete in my first Olympic Games. I also got to travel the world and realise my dreams. So, I can assure you one thing – I wouldn’t change it for anything.

Perhaps the key lesson that I’ve learnt from my Olympic experience is that, when in pursuit of a long-term goal, hard work and extensive preparation really does pay off. Within business, each worker, team and organisation often has a long-term strategy or goal. I’m sure that hard work, determination and meticulous preparation is just as critical in reaching these business objectives as it was in reaching my Olympic goals.

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