Top athletes offer advice on making the most of a loss.

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How do top athletes handle defeat and disappointment? In many cases, an athlete can turn to his or her teammates for support and encouragement. But in some sports, the performer competes as an individual. Winning or losing depends solely on the athlete’s own skill and effort.

I asked several top performers in individual sports like gymnastics, skating, and track and field where they find the spark to keep going after a loss. Maybe their responses will be helpful to you, too.

Siri Lindley   Think Positively
Siri Lindley is a top triathlete, competing in events that combine long-distance running, swimming, and cycling. “I try to use what I learn from each loss to make me stronger and more determined,” she says. “Then I pick my head up and start thinking positive, and I visualize myself succeeding the next time. Let the losses make you stronger.”

Siri Lindley

Stick with It
Allen Johnson won a gold medal in the 110-meter hurdles at the 1996 Olympics, but he knows that he can’t win every race. “When I don’t win, I have to accept the fact that I made a mistake or that someone was better on that day,” he says. “You can’t be the best every day, but you can be the best on some days.”
  Allen Johnson
Allen Johnson

Mari Holden   Push Through the Struggles
In bicycle road races, Mari Holden often rides up to one hundred miles a day. She has finished at the front of the pack on many occasions, but she also knows what it’s like to trail the field. “I was once in a race in France on a rainy, cold day,” she says. “I lost the main pack of riders and felt like I was out there by myself. Boy, was I miserable. I remember moments like these the most, and now when I struggle I can say, ‘Hey, you’ve been there before, push through your disappointment and move on.’”

Mari Holden

Work on Small Things
Diver Mark Ruiz has won many national championships. “In my sport it is the little things that count,” he says. “Each dive must be done perfectly. If I don’t do well in a meet, it pushes me to practice that much harder. If I don’t feel motivated to practice, I remind myself that if I don’t train well, I don’t do well. So I go right back to working on all the small things.”
  Mark Ruiz
Mark Ruiz

Shannon Miller   Learn from Mistakes
Gymnast Shannon Miller has won several Olympic medals, including two golds. “If I make a mistake in the middle of a competition, I try to forget about it because I have to go on,” she says. “If I do poorly over the course of an entire meet, I go back to the gym and figure out what went wrong. It’s so important to learn from your mistakes.”

Shannon Miller

Pick Yourself Up
Figure skater Michael Weiss is one of the best in his sport, but there have been a lot of spills along the way. “I look at failing as a part of growing,” he says.

“When you lose and you are feeling down, without teammates to lift you up, you have to be strong enough to pick yourself up.”

  Michael Weiss
Michael Weiss