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The Olympics holds important lessons for business

By Carol Butcher –

The 2016 Olympics in Rio were a huge success. The opening ceremony – colourful, vibrant, innovative, spell-binding, spectacular, has raised the bar. One thing is very clear – Japan has a very tough act to follow.

South Africa was thrilled to break the single digit ceiling for Olympic medals. Our Olympic stars brought home ten medals – two gold, six silver, and two bronze.

South Africans cheered and celebrated Wayde van Niekerk, Caster Semenya, Chad le Clos, Cameron van der Burgh, Sunette Viljoen, Henri Schoeman, Akani Simbine, Lawrence Brittain and Shaun Keeling and Luvo Manyonga accomplishments.

Their achievements attest to the breadth and talent in athletics, rowing and swimming in South Africa; they also attest to the world-class talent, tenacity, hard work and determination of our Olympic stars.

For Africa as a whole, this was the continent’s best Olympics ever. Countries in Africa garnered 45 medals in total. The Olympics proved that even if countries do not have world-class training facilities, or deep pockets to fund training, hard work, determination and raw talent always shines through.

Talent is often stereotyped; it is perceived to fit snuggly within certain parameters, including age. Fortunately, the recent Olympics have dispelled this myth. Thirteen-year-old Gaurika Singh from Nepal was the youngest competitor, Australian, Mary Hanna, aged 61 was the oldest competitor. Hanna is on record as saying: “One of the reasons I love this sport so much is that you get better the more you do it.”

Forty-one-year-old Oksana Chusovitina, also impressed. The oldest gymnast to compete, Chusovitina has competed in every Summer Games since 1992. She still has what it takes – she finished fifth overall.  Imagine being the fifth best gymnast in the world at 41.

Anthony Irvin also proved that he still has it. Sixteen years after winning a gold medal for the 50m freestyle, Irvin swam away with gold for the second time. Irvin is the Olympics oldest swimming champion at 35.

Tannie Ans Botha, Wayde van Niekerk’s coach was the real show-stopper.The world was astounded to learn that she is 73-year-old. Hats off to her, she has no plans to retire: “You’re never too old to learn. I still love coaching, and I still love my athletics.”

The Olympics holds a very important lesson for business – baby boomers, silver foxes and women of wisdom still have a critical role to play. Instead of sending them out to pasture at retirement, we should be bringing them into the workplace to mentor and coach. They still have a huge contribution to make. If Tannie Ans Botha doesn’t plan to retire, why should they? We need their skills to produce gold medalists in the workplace.

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Carol has nineteen years’ experience as a professional writer, editor and case study writer. Her writing experience includes a stint as the resident Case Study Writer at the Wits Business School.

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