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Beating the Odds

How Did America Get So Good?

Today the United States sets the record for most medals ever won at a Winter Olympics. Whether the men’s hockey team captures the gold or the silver against Canada, America will own 37 medals.
By contrast, 30 years ago, when the 1980 U.S. hockey team pulled off the Miracle on Ice, the entire American squad won only 12 medals.
So the question is: How did the Americans get so good?
It turns out that the answer comes down to one word: Focus. A generation ago, with the 2002 Winter Olympics scheduled to take place in Utah, the United States simply decided to focus more on the Winter Games than it had.
That’s according to a Saturday story in the New York Times. It quotes Steve Roush, a former U.S. Olympic Committee chief of sport performance, who discussed America’s dramatic rise in the Winter Games.
“There was this feeling that it was the Forgotten Games,” the paper quoted Roush. “I think the desire by the U.S.O.C. to perform well as the host kind of changed that whole mind-set.”
So the reason behind the America’s success is not complicated: It was simply focus. It’s not the whole answer, of course, but that’s where the success begins. Once there is focus, then things like time, resources and energy follow.
For now, the United States is the greatest Winter Olympic power in history. That raises two questions: Can the US sustain that kind of focus? And what will this result do to the focus of other nations — nations that used to dominate in winter?


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