Q1 · 2021Making It Happen – like Dominique Gisin

Many of you know that, for many years, I have supported the champion skier Dominique Gisin as her performance coach and sports psychologist.

The pinnacle of Dominique’s extraordinary skiing career saw her famously fight back from serious injuries to win a Gold medal at the Sochi Olympic Games in 2014. More on this in a moment.

Since retiring from professional skiing, Dominique has neither lost her competitive instincts nor the mindset of a champion. She has continued to challenge herself and to excel in other areas, including completing a university degree in astrophysics, gaining her pilot’s license, and contributing to good causes, such as serving as an ambassador for the Red Cross. In addition, Dominique won the accolade of Swiss ‘sportswoman of the year’, was voted one of the five most inspiring women in Switzerland, and has been invited to share her story at numerous events, such as Talks at Google.

It is a great privilege for me to continue to work closely with Dominique and to share my perspective of her inspiring story in our joint keynote presentations and in our co-authored book Making It Happen.

Making It Happen,

which was first published in 2015, has already been very successful and is now in its third edition in German, but it has not been available in English – until now! I am proud to announce that we have just published the book in English – making it accessible to a much wider audience around the world.

I invite you to read this book. If you do, you will surely marvel at Dominique’s incredible resilience, agility and determination in the face of extreme adversity. And you will be able to benefit from her story as a source of inspiration, especially at difficult times in your career and perhaps also in your personal life. As Dominique writes in the preface:

“I dedicate this book to all people who have not yet been able to follow their path straight to the top. To all those who have suffered setbacks. To all those who are fighting hard to achieve their dreams. And to all those who have fallen hard and who are close to giving up. May this book give you confidence, hope and inspiration to continue bravely on your own path and make your mark.”

Mindset of a champion

Let me give you a flavor of the mental and emotional strength that underpinned Dominique’s transformation from a injured and rejected athlete to a great champion.

Dominique had multiple knee operations as a teenager, leaving a huge shortfall in her experience compared with her rivals. Despite this, she managed to fight her way to qualification for the Vancouver Olympic Games in 2010. Then, in Vancouver, she was on course for a medal when she tumbled, crashed, and ended up with severe concussion. Most experts thought her career was over, with this latest disaster coming on top of so many previous injuries.

Incredibly, she fought back again, to reach the Sochi Games four years later. She says, “Qualifying for those Games was probably the hardest challenge of my career. I was thinking about quitting.” She didn’t just qualify – she won! And her moment of victory could not have been more emotional, or more tense, because, for the first time in history, two women tied for the gold medal in this event, crossing the finish line with identical times measured to 1/100 of a second.

Transformation is key

The other gold medalist was Tina Maze, a legend in Alpine skiing, who still holds the record for the most points won in a season. In order to achieve such excellence, Tina had to get comfortable with the two very fast disciplines: Downhill and ‘Super G’.

Tina kindly contributed the foreword to Making It Happen, where she gives a personal insight into her own transformation to become one of the most complete skiers the world has ever seen. Let me share some of her words:

“Even today, I can hardly believe I am a Downhill Olympic Champion, because I started out as someone who was afraid to crash, even to be fast, someone who was definitely afraid to jump. I still remember Dominique looking at me during the Olympics in Vancouver, where I controlled my speed before the jumps with a slide… what a shame that was. But I was so afraid to be fast and jump far, while Dominique would do jumps easily and control the ‘flying session’ without a problem. I would say to myself: “Of course she can do flips, and flops, helicopters with skis, she is a pilot – I am not!

“Anyway… I became a downhiller through lots of training and teamwork. So, to stand on top of the podium four years later beside Dominique was like, “Hell YES! We deserve this!” – it felt so RIGHT for everyone involved!

“And guess what… I am crying! I admired Dominique as someone special from the moment I saw her, and she continues to be herself 100%.”

What a beautiful way for Tina to describe the emotions that came with such a significant turnaround.

What can we learn?

Such transformations do not happen by accident and they always come with emotions and fears. Tina mentions “lots of training and teamwork”, while Dominique has admitted to moments when she looked for an excuse not to compete because of her fear of failure and of further injuries.

Dominique’s and Tina’s transformations are relevant for everyone who has the desire to perform excellently. OK, so we can’t all win Olympic gold medals, but we can strive to adopt the mindset and the methods of these two great champions to achieve gold standard performance in our own field. Behind their success are important lessons for all of us:

  • Set big goals. Think about what you really want to achieve. What does success look like for you? What will make you reach your potential and make you feel fulfilled? For Dominique and Tina, nothing less than Olympic Gold was enough.
  • Deal with your fears. Dominique and Tina were able to recognize what was holding them back and ‘reset’. What are you fearful of?
  • Work hard on yourself. Even the greatest champions put in a lot of effort to get comfortable with what initially doesn’t feel right. Roger Federer remodeled his approach after he had already won 17 Grand Slams! It took a lot of training, but he has since won three more. So, what do you need to work at?
  • Build an amazing team. Dominique, Tina, Roger – none of them could have succeeded without the skills and support of others around them. So, seek out the experts who you can fully trust and who can help you excel.

No matter where your passion lies, you can make the difference and achieve excellence, even becoming the best in your field. (And, by the way, many of the same lessons can also be adapted and applied to your personal life, helping you find health, happiness, peace and fulfilment there too.)

You can do this – go for gold!

All the best,