“Let me tell you something you already know. The world ain’t all sunshine and rainbows. It’s a very mean and nasty place and I don’t care how tough you are it will beat you to your knees and keep you there permanently if you let it. You, me, or nobody is gonna hit as hard as life. But it ain’t about how hard ya hit. It’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward. How much you can take and keep moving forward. That’s how winning is done!”

Sylvestor Stallone, Rocky Balboa

What separates the champions from the rest of the pack? Hard work? But a lot of the competition would have put in the same amount of work, if not more. Intelligence or acumen? Maybe, but again, probably not entirely true. Faith in God? That’s a question no one likes to answer. Rocky has a pretty compelling argument. The ones that often end up succeeding are those that keep trudging forward when everything but the kitchen sink is thrown at them.

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I’m not generally a philosophical person (as you probably know from reading my earlier articles). This entire thought process came about after watching India get hammered by New Zealand. Deja Vu from 2007. An average Indian cricket fan, ever the optimist, I immediately recalled the tournament from 2007 where India lost to the Black Caps. The difference now is, not many gave India a chance back then and now they’ve been touted as the clear favourites. India famously went on to lift the trophy that heralded in a new era for Indian cricket. But we’ve drifted a bit off topic. The point at hand is this. India looked down and out, completely deflated. But they didn’t let their heads drop. They turned up for the next game, and how! Poor Stuart Broad faced the brunt of it and the rejuvenated Indian side became unstoppable.

A similar situation came up a few years later in 2010. In this case it was Vicente del Bosque’s all conquering Spanish armada. With the Catalan duo of Xavi and Iniesta running the show from midfield and David Villa up front, one of the best forwards in world football, Spain were considered red hot favourites to lift the trophy. In the first game of the group stage they faced an unfancied Swiss side and the unthinkable happened. Though the Spanish controlled most of the game, wasteful finishing coupled with a comedy of errors from a long ball led to Gelson Fernandes scoring the winner that was one of the shocks of the tournament. It was Spain’s first defeat in 49 games. But again, like true champions they came back from it. Winning every single game en route to capturing the biggest prize in world football. Beginning to sense a pattern? 🙂

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And not just in sports. Fun fact, the Pandava army actually got badly battered during the first day of the Kurukshetra war. (Ummm ignore the fact that this is a fictional story :p There’s actually a bunch of lessons we can take from the Mahabharata) In fact Yudhishthira was visibly distraught after the first day’s proceedings and Krishna even had to console him repeatedly. The next day, Arjuna realised that something had to be done and champion as he was he almost single handedly won them the next day. The advantage would see-saw between both sides with unlikely heroes coming to the fore (Ghatotkacha and Abhimanyu). Again the side that could take the most hits prevailed in the end (With a few additional cheat codes 😉 But that’s an entire different can of worms isn’t it? )

To a more recent ( *cough* real *cough* ) example. Everyone knows about the famed American national pride. One of the most famous instances of patriotism amongst Americans is how the anthem was designed.

On a rainy September 13, 1814, British warships sent a downpour of shells and rockets onto Fort McHenry in Baltimore Harbor, relentlessly pounding the American fort for 25 hours. The bombardment, known as the Battle of Baltimore, came only weeks after the British had attacked Washington, D.C., burning the Capitol, the Treasury and the President’s house. A week earlier, Francis Scott Key, a 35-year-old American lawyer, had boarded the flagship of the British fleet on the Chesapeake Bay in hopes of persuading the British to release a friend who had recently been arrested. Key’s tactics were successful, but because he and his companions had gained knowledge of the impending attack on Baltimore, the British did not let them go. They allowed the Americans to return to their own vessel but continued guarding them. Under their scrutiny, Key watched on September 13 as the barrage of Fort McHenry began eight miles away. And when darkness arrived, Key saw only red erupting in the night sky. Given the scale of the attack, he was certain the British would win. The hours passed slowly, but in the clearing smoke of “the dawn’s early light” on September 14, he saw the American flag—not the British Union Jack—flying over the fort, announcing an American victory. Key put his thoughts on paper while still on board the ship, setting his words to the tune of a popular English song. Key’s poem, now called “The Star-Spangled Banner,” appeared in print across the country, immortalizing his words and it’s still sung today. Against all odds the Americans held out, defending their homeland against the invasion. “O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave” indeed 😀

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Lastly one of my favourite heroes, Po the Panda. When picked as the Dragon Warrior, Po is ridiculed by both the Furious 5 and Master Shifu himself. He could have quit. But he stuck to his guns (With a little help from Master Oogway. Gotta love that turtle 🙂 ). Po endures his grueling training and slowly begins to befriend the Five with his tenacity, culinary skill, and good humor. Further when faced with the seemingly impossible task of overcoming Tai Lung, he puts in the hard yards and emerges a Champion.

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Bloodied, battered, broken but not beaten. Stuff of Champions.

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