Gholamreza Takhti
Iranian star wrestler, Gholamreza Takhti

What did Shunichi Kawano do? What behavior was so shameful that this Japanese wrestler was banished from the Olympic Village by his coach because it would “adversely affect the morale of other athletes.” It was reported that Kawano “lacked fighting spirit”, an accusation that was amplified as he lost in the presence of Crown Prince Akihito and Princess Michiko at the Komazawa Gymnasium.

Two days later, Kawano appeared before the press with his head shaved, an apparent act of

October 16, 1964, Japan Times
October 16, 1964, Japan Times

contrition. But instead of playing the role of the shamed and contrite, he told the press that he didn’t feel he lacked the so-called “Olympian fighting spirit”. And it appears that the public sided with him, because Kawano was allowed back into the Olympic Village after the sensationalist coverage of this story by the press in Japan shamed the Japanese authorities to reverse themselves.

Whatever happened, it is in contrast to the reputation of the wrestler who beat Kawano in that light heavyweight freestyle match, the Iranian wrestler, Gholamreza Takhti. He was not the most decorated athlete in Iran in the 20th century, but he was a hero to Iranians, primarily for his honorable behavior.

As is stated in this article remembering the “Gentle Giant”, he was often described with such words as “chivalry, humility, kindness and gentleness”. Takhti was known to apologize to opponents after defeating them, apparently once apologizing to the mother of a Russian opponent who was looking sad upon her son’s defeat.

Takhti won gold in

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Greg Louganis
Greg Louganis

Greg Louganis had won silver in Montreal and two gold medals for diving in Los Angeles in 1984. In 1988 at the Seoul Olympic Games, Louganis was favored to win gold again in both the 3 meter springboard and the 10-meter platform events.

But that changed suddenly when Louganis hit his head in the 3-meter preliminaries, and fell into the water with blood seeping from his head. As he explained in a recent episode of Hang Up and Listen (the Slate sports podcast), “in that split second, I was the underdog.” (Listen from the 36-minute mark for the Louganis interview.)

Louganis went on to win gold in both the 3-meter and 10-meter competitions, ending the Olympic career of who some say is the greatest diver of all time. But the competition in 1988 was the toughest he faced with the Chinese coming on strong and challenging Louganis for diving supremacy. And more personally, it was only six months before when Louganis learned he was HIV positive. If the Korean authorities had known that, it is possible they would not have let him into the country to compete in the Olympics.

As the Slate interviewers asked in disbelief, after getting a concussion in the prelims, leaving blood in the water hiding the fact that he is HIV positive, the Chinese breathing down his neck as he battles to stay in medal contention….how did he focus.

Louganis replied with a laugh, answering as it wasn’t that big a deal to do so.

“That was my upbringing. I’ve been performing (for so long). I started dance and acrobatics when I was 3. I was taught, “Hey, the show must go on.” As soon as that music starts, there is no looking back. if you lose your place, you gotta catch up. You don’t get second chances. It was easy for me to compartmentalize my life because I had done so for so many years. We get good at what we practice. That is something I practiced a lot.”

Louganis is not alone. Almost all athletes at that level can narrow their focus on only the elements they know will contribute to their success. It amazes me