Overcoming failure to achieve success
Published on May 8th, 2019
While the era of the USA being the dominant Olympic sailing nation has passed, renewed efforts to reclaim superiority are being rooted in what worked in the past, which is effort and commitment.
These attributes contributed to American Mark Reynolds winning three medals, as his success came the old fashioned way… with failure.
“The road to success is always under construction.” – Lily Tomlin
Beginning with the 1980 Olympics, he and Augie Diaz were favorites to advance from the USA in the Flying Dutchman, but that all evaporated due to the US boycott. “It wasn’t a complete disappointment,” reflects Reynolds. “There was a lot of experience gained from doing all the regattas with Augie which was huge.”
For a lot of athletes in other sports, the boycott was heartbreaking, but Reynolds saw the silver lining. “I was so lucky to have a sport that I could continue on and strive for the Olympics. Unlike gymnastics or some of the other sports where you have your shot, and then you move on with your life, I was able to stay in sailing.”
Reynolds would be denied again, coming up short at the US trials for the 1984 Olympics, but the third time would be the charm, sort of. “I finally got to go to the 1988 Olympics, and while we had a really good speed at the trials in light air, the Olympics ended up being a heavy air regatta for every race.
“Fortunately we were competitive in the breeze too and had a good chance to win but then we broke our mast in the last race which that might have been the reason we finished in silver. To win we still had to finish in the top seven or so in that race. I think we were in sixth or seventh at the time we broke our mast, so who knows.”
“Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.” – Thomas Edison
And Reynolds didn’t give up. “I was planning on continuing Star sailing. What’s nice about the Class is there’s so much more besides the Olympics. It’s not just focused on that event as the Class has a great World Championship which is arguably harder to win than the Olympics.”
Reynolds did win two Star World Championships, and his gold medal Olympic moment finally came at the 1992 Games. After a disappointing 8th at Atlanta 1996, Reynolds closed out his Olympic career with another gold at the 2000 Games.