The Courage to Succeed*
By: Dan Gable
"When I lifted weights, I didn't lift just to maintain my muscle tone. I lifted to increase what I already had, to push to a new limit. Every time I worked, I was getting a little better. I kept moving that limit back and back. Every time I walked out of the gym, I was a little better than when I walked in."
During the summer before Dan Gable was a freshman at Iowa State, he worked out with Bob Buzzard. Buzzard had won two Big Eight wrestling titles. He recalls, "Dan was a tough kid. Some days I'd crunch him, some days I'd fool around and let him make some moves. But on the last day before I went back to Eastern Michigan University, I wanted to show him he had a ways to go, even though he had won three consecutive state high school championships."
After Buzzard finished with Gable that night, Dan fell to the mat crying tears of anger. Right then Gable recalls, "I vowed I wouldn't ever let anyone destroy me again. I was going to work at it every day, so hard that I would be the toughest guy in the world. By the end of practice, I wanted to be physically tired, to know that I'd been through a workout. If I wasn't tired, I must have cheated somehow, so I stayed a little longer."
To push one's body to the limit of endurance and beyond, to deny one's self normal pleasures while all around others are enjoying those pleasures, to persevere under grueling competition is, to me, a rare act of courage. Gabble decided that he would never allow himself to get tired in a match again. Dan's strength and endurance allowed him to be on the offense all the time, always attacking, always pressing, never giving an opponent a chance to relax or counterattack.
After a college career in which Gable won two National titles and lost only one match, he found a new motivation-the Russians, the dominant force in wrestling. Before the Olympic games of 1972, Gable had defeated a dozen Russians in dual meets. At a banquet after one match, the Russians made a vow to Gable that they would find someone before the games in Munich who would beat him.
Between the banquet and the Olympics, Gable tore the cartilage in his left knee. The doctors recommended and operation, but Gable wouldn't hear of it-he just kept on practicing. The injury did, however, force Gable to alter his wrestling style.
"I changed my style of wrestling from simply offensive scoring to what I call defensive, offensive scoring. In this situation, I actually made myself a better wrestler because I learned a new way of scoring."
Once the games began, Gable encountered more adversity. He received a head-bump to the left eye in his first match and doctors sewed up the eye with seven stitches.
"The blood was obstructing my opponents chances of wrestling, and consequently, the medical doctor almost disqualified me," he recalls. "I can remember thinking in my corner while the doctors were bandaging me up that nothing was going to stop me."
Neither the Russians nor any other country found a wrestler who could beat Dan Gable in the 1972 Olympics. He won the gold medal without giving up a point to any of six opponents. Dan Gable had a goal, and he would not allow anything or anyone to stop him.