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Bovell: I am a self-made man

Monday, April 14, 2014

“I don’t believe that because my parents were successful athletes, it has made me a successful athlete,” Olympic bronze medal winner George Bovell III has said.


“Yes. I might be in a sport that requires you to be tall and athletic and it certainly helps that I have those genes, but at this level everybody is great. Everybody knows how to work. There are millions and millions of young people out there who are just as talented as or even more talented than I am that never get pushed all the way through. When things get hard they tend to give up.”


Bovell is the son of George and Barbara Bovell. His father was a collegiate swimmer and his mother, a sprint athlete, competed at the 1972 Summer Olympics.


The national swimmer cleared the air on his rise to sporting success at Thursday’s close of The Sport Desk Leadership Symposium held at the Cascadia Hotel and Conference Centre in St Ann’s, Port-of-Spain.


“There is the growth mindset and the fixed mindset. I think I possess a growth mind set. I know a lot of athletes out there who are at the top of their fields, who are not the most talented. They are just the ones who have the tenacity to work harder; (to) keep pushing. It doesn’t come as easy for them as it does to some other people. But they learn. It’s a process. It’s always a process. You can always get better. You are not born with a fixed capacity,” he said. 


In his contribution to the mentorship conference, Bovell told an eager gathering of an estimated 400 teenagers that the greatest people in every field in history all possessed the growth mindset.


As a consequence, he said, they never believed that their capacity was limited by their own skill level.


“They always believed they could know more. They never believed that their intelligence was a limiting factor. They always believe that if they thought harder or worked or tried more or spent more time doing it, that they would become successful and this has always worked out. Your capacity is never finite, it is limitless,” said Bovell.


Normal people, he said, were complacent and comfortable. He defined them as being happy with mediocrity and would not being inclined to do extra to take them all the way to success.


He told attendees they were the beneficiaries of the symposium because they had done the extra work which did not go unrecognised and offered to show them the path for success or they discovered it themselves.


But even on the path to success he warned them that it would not be easy.


“You are going to have to face these challenges head on with a mentality that you are prepared to fight, because you are going up against not just the people in T&T. You are competing against the world. You are competing against people in India and China, (who are) getting scholarships and doing double majors. These are the people you are going to compete with for the jobs that are leadership positions in the world,” he said.


Fielding questions about memories of his first win, Bovell, who is reputed to be the Caribbean’s most accomplished swimmer, said that in order to hit his targets for success, he could not dwell on past accomplishments.


The champion athlete revealed that he was always eager to meet and confront the next big challenge not simply to conquer it, but to press on to the next.


To strengthen his points, Bovell shared his experiences as a student as Auburn University in the United States and made it clear that managing life as both a student and athlete was no walk in the park.


Even though the feats of his swim team were considered historic, his academic obligations at university were not reduced.


His described that journey as being “very, very hard” and noted that this aspect of one’s educational pursuit was not “the best days of one’s life” as a lot of people purport.


“We were a group of guys and we were the first class in the history of all sports in the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) to never lose. We won everything in every year for four years against the best athletes in the world, against the best schools in the world. A big part of that was because we kept pushing. 


“We built that momentum. We were waking up at five every morning swim from six to seven, eat something quick, rush off to school for eight until two. Then from 3 o’clock to six o’ clock we would be swimming again. Then cook some dinner at home and then from about eight to 10.30, 11 (pm) studying. Then do it again the next day. A lot of it came down to will power, actually. There were times when I might have been feeling complacent and tired and my teammates were there to push me. A lot of it was due to will power,” he said.


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