Sunday, 10 August 2008

First Gold Medal for Great Britain Won in Thrilling Style by Nicole Cooke

Nicole Cooke won Great Britain's first gold medal in the Beijing Olympics in the woman's road race. The 25-year-old from Wales timed her finish to perfection, edging ahead of Emma Johansson (Sweden) and Tatiana Guderzo (Italy) in the sprint to cross the finish line.

The 25 year-old Cooke finished in a time of three hours, 32 minutes and 24 seconds and this was not only Britain's first gold medal for the 2008 Olympics it's the first time Britain, Cooke is also the first Olympic medallist in this event. The gruelling 126.4-kilometre (78.5-mile) race was made even more challenging because of the heavy rain make the course slippery and treacherous.

China's Meng Lang was one of the causalities of the appalling weather conditions. She landed upside down in a ditch but remarkably got back on her bike and continued the race even though there was no prospect of being in the medal hunt.

As always, much can be learnt about goal achievement and winning from this victory. Here are just three important takeaways.


Cooke was very selective about the races she chose to take part in during her build-up to the Olympics. Instead of doing a wide selection of races as she has done in the past she "cherry-picked" a handful of races to compete in. Lance Armstrong, the seven-time winner of Le Tour de France had a similar approach. Le Tour de France was his main focus and this certainly contributed to his phenomenal success in this event.

Lesson 1: To achieve your goals you have to have focus.

Reading the Field

In cycling you have to be able to read the field. You have to know when to break away, when to hold back, etc. And above all you have to play to your strengths. These are character traits that all goal achievers need. Apart from one heart-stopping moment when, in the closing stages of the race Cooke briefly lost contact with the race leaders, she read the race beautifully from start to finish.

And, as in the men's race, this event came down to a sprint finish which Cooke was confident she could win if she was within striking distance. With just 200 metres to go she was perfectly poised and she powered past Johanasson and Guderzo in a sprint to the line.

Lesson 2: Goal achievers must be able to understand and interpret the 'field' in which they operate and be appropriately reactive and or proactive.


Teamwork played an important role in Cooke's victory. In the 2004 Athens Olympics Cooke finished a disappointing fifth and this was largely due to the fact that she was essentially working on her own. This time however, her team-mates Emma Pooley and Sharon Laws did their bit to soften up the legs of their competitors. Cooke was able to stay with the breakaway group and had just enough of a sprint finish to out-class her nearest rivals

After the event Cooke was naturally jubilant and quick to give credit to her team:

"We did it, it was perfect. It's a dream come true. I want to thank all the people who have been there from the start. I have worked so hard, I am so happy."

Lesson 3: All winners need a great team - not to necessarily wear out your competitors I hasten to add - but to support you on your path to goal achievement.

Click HERE to watch the thrilling finale of the woman's road race for the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

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