Winning, as someone famously once said, isn’t everything.
It’s the only thing.
The prospect of winning, of being not just amongst the best, but the very best, is what drives countless professional athletes on in their sporting lives. Every second of every minute of every day. Winners don’t have any spare time. They’re either competing, training or sleeping. And either thinking or dreaming about winning whilst they’re doing it.
It is the only thing. There are no shortcuts.
But what about once you’ve got there?
Once you’ve proven, beyond all doubt, that you are a winner, isn’t there a temptation then to take a step back and enjoy your achievements as well as the fame, success and money that came with it?
If your name was Venus Williams, you might feel that, after a career that has seen you win nine single and thirteen doubles successes in the four majors, plus countless other trophies and worldwide acclaim, you might just want to step out of the sporting treadmill and chill out for a bit: what has she got to prove to anyone?
Especially after being diagnosed, as she was in 2011, with an incurable autoimmune disorder -difficult enough for anyone to learn to adapt to and live with – but as an elite sportsperson operating in the top 0.01% of her chosen profession?
No-one would have been surprised if Venus had chosen to retire from the game in order to focus on her new life, to manage that and the condition – whilst enjoying the fruits of her considerable labours earnt from the old one.
But, lest we forget. Venus Williams is a winner. A serial winner at that. No-one and nothing stands in the way of their focus, drive and ambition.
Even an incurable autoimmune disorder.
To her it was just another challenge, another opponent to take on and vanquish.
Last month, at the age of 34, nearly thirteen years after she became World Number One for the first time, Venus entered the US Open, reaching her first major quarter-final since 2011.
Madison Keys, who beat Venus in that match spoke warmly of her before the match, saying, “Just watching her is inspirational. She’s had her health battles but she loves tennis. She’s still out there and she’s doing it remarkably well. I hope I can be someone similar to that.”
A great Champion and an inspiration to others. That’s the sort of legacy anyone would be proud of.
And a great winner.
There was absolutely no reason for Venus Williams to work at competing at the top level of her sport again. She could have quietly retired, her reputation as one of the all time greats guaranteed.
But, despite all that, she wanted more. She still wanted to compete, to be the best. To win again.
And it’s that desire, the determination to do just that, even when all the odds were against her, that makes her a greater winner and Champion than any of the trophies she’s ever won have done.