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Essay Winners Never Quit


By Jim Schmitz

U.S. Olympic Weightlifting Team Coach , &
Author of Olympic-style Weightlifting for Beginner & Intermediate Weightlifters Manual and DVD

Winners Never Quit and Quitters Never Win

That's an old and proven cliche and what it means is keep your determination and focus, and never stop trying.  This is a mental attitude that successful people have in sports and all walks of life.  As a coach I have some great examples of the winning mental attitude.

The first example is Ken Clark ( kg).  He won the Junior Nationals where he set records, and had lifted many personal records in training, enough to win the Nationals.  However, he bombed out there—a big disappointment.  In he was on a roll again, breaking his personal records in local meets, and we thought he would make the Olympic team, but he had another disappointing Nationals and Olympic Trials, placing fourth.  He came home and started training as hard as ever.  He went on to win the Nationals in , , , , , and ; he set several U.S. records, made World teams, won silver medals at the Pan American Games, and placed fifth at the Olympics.  He came back from defeat to be a champion because he never quit!

John Bergman (+ kg) was an up-and-comer and a long shot to make the Olympic team, but he was lifting the weights that would do it.  At the Olympic Trials all he needed was kg in the clean and jerk to make the team, a weight he had done on several occasions in the gym and in competition.  He cleaned it strong and drove the jerk to arm's length, but couldn't hold it, no lift.  On his next attempt he missed the clean.  John went back to the gym, trained hard, and won the Nationals in   After that, injuries started to take their toll on John, but he sucked it up and fought on, placing second in the Nationals and second in the Pan American Games.  Unfortunately for John he was competing against his training partner and friend Mario Martinez (+ kg), Olympic silver medalist and holder of all the U.S. records.  John's body was breaking down, one little injury after another, but he dug deep and had his best day ( kg and kg) at the Olympic Trials to make the Olympic team.  John placed tenth at the Seoul Olympics.  He had come back from defeat and frustrating injuries to achieve his dream, to compete in the Olympics—he never quit!

Thanh Nguyen is probably the best example of never giving up.  Thanh, along with his family (brother, sister, mother and father), had escaped Vietnam in the late s, literally by boat to Australia.  They spent several years in a refugee camp there before being sponsored by a family in San Francisco.  In , year-old Thanh roller skated into my gym and at a bodyweight of 55 kg ( lb.), he snatched (without the roller skates) 60 kg ( lb.) after watching others do it.  I naturally asked if he would like to try Olympic lifting and he said yes.  He made great progress and was winning all the local competitions as a kg (lb.) lifter, but was soon dominating the kg (lb.) class.  However, since he wasn't a U.S. citizen yet, he wasn't allowed to compete nationally.  It takes five years to become a U.S. citizen.  This discouraged him, so he stopped training, finished high school, and graduated from San Francisco State University with a degree in computer science.


In Thanh became a U.S. citizen and came back to weightlifting and placed second at the Nationals in the kg class with a total of kg.  This qualified him for an under international competition tour in Europe where he competed in four different competitions—in Sweden, Germany, France, and England—within two weeks and had two six-for-six performances, improving his total to   He then won the Nationals with a kg total and won again in with a kg total. 

Then Bryan Jacob came on the scene and pushed Thanh to second place in and and third in behind Chris LeRoux.  It was at the Olympic Trials where Thanh had his biggest disappointment.  He set a PR snatch of and needed only a kg clean and jerk to make the Olympic team, and it crushed him in the clean.  He had done officially previously, but on this day buried him.

Thanh got over his failure by going to the Olympics as a spectator and came home determined to make the Atlanta Olympic team.  Tim McRae and Vernon Patao were now on the scene and kept Thanh in second place in , , and   Thanh continued to improve and was totaling , but just couldn't seem to lift enough to win until when that total held up for first place.

Then came the Olympic Trials.  Thanh missed his first two snatches with ; he went to for a do-or-die attempt and made it very strong.  In the clean and jerk he did and for a kg PR total and enough for a spot on the U.S. Olympic team.  What a journey—he never quit and never stopped trying, even going down to his last attempt in the snatch.  What courage and determination he showed—he never quit!

A little side story about Thanh is that he didn't perform well at the Olympics, placing thirty-second, doing only his openers and for a kg total.  He had torn his ACL in his left knee when cleaning in training two weeks before and didn't realize it; he needed surgery soon after the Games.  But the interesting part of Thanh's story is that he went to visit the Vietnam team in the Olympic Village and met their interpreter, Li, who like him was a Vietnamese refugee whose family was sponsored and relocated in Altanta.  Six weeks later they got married and are happily married to this day and living in Atlanta.

"You haven't lost until you quit trying" is another cliche that I remember the Hall of Fame football player and Super Bowl winning coach, Chicago's Mike Ditka, saying some years ago.  I douibt he was the first to say it, but it is so true.  Believe in yourself, train hard, stay focused, and NEVER QUIT!



For more information on Olympic-style weightlifting, weight training, lifter profiles, and competition reports, visit our Weightlifting Resource Pages.

Jim Schmitz’s gold-medal articles on weightlifting and weight training are regularly featured in MILO: A Journal for Serious Strength Athletes.

Take advantage of what Jim Schmitz, absolutely one of the best American coaches in the sport, can teach you in his Olympic-style Weightlifting for the Beginner & Intermediate Weightlifters Manual and DVD.

There's a popular quote in the motivational world that goes like this: "Winners never quit and quitters never win." Upfront, this is one of the greatest myths about success. By the end of this article, I want you to replace it with this cliche: "Quit flogging a dead horse."

If someone asks you, "Are you a quitter?" it feels like someone is asking you if you're "too chicken". It feels judgmental, almost like a test to measure your strength. This is the sad perception we have of quitting. We think the weak, unmotivated, and lazy quit.

You might be thinking this article is going to be of the motivational, never-give-up, stick-with-it, go-get-em-tiger, you-can-do-it type.

Nope. I want to destroy a false belief about quitting and success, that is:
"Winners never quit and quitters never win."The original saying has a degree of truth about it, yet in terms of the "never" part, it is wrong. Let me explain.

Let's say you are single in search of a partner. You go out to your usual club and make a serious effort to look for a partner. After many unsuccessful attempts you begin to lose confidence. Frustration and anger set in as you are left wondering, "What am I doing wrong?"

What if you were doing nothing wrong, but the club is a bad place to meet people? What if the people you meet are the ones who have something wrong while you are fine? The music could be too loud or the people are already in relationships are two reasons you could be failing that you cannot control.

I don't want you to develop the point of view, "Nothing is wrong with me. The world has the problem." Certain things will always be out of your control.

So let's get things straight. Some relationships do not work. Some people will always hate you. Some people are not going to be friends with you. Some bosses, co-workers, and customers will be jerks no matter what. Wealthy and happy people know this is how to build a successful life.

Whether you are religious or not, take the story of Jesus. He was perfect yet people hated him and killed him. He could not fully accomplish his goals in getting everyone to believe in him regardless of his perfectionism because people make their own choices that influence the cannot succeed in some markets or relationships no matter how good you are.

No longer is "if at first we don't succeed, try again" true. That is the old paradigm. The new paradigm is "if at first we don't succeed, see why it failed, and quit or try again though more intelligently." (Don't you just love these extended paradigms?) You can also take on the easier to remember cliche of, "Quit flogging a dead horse."

If you follow the saying about never quitting, you could persist pursuing failures. The saying is a blindfold to push and motivate you into what will always fail.

When you learn a relationship isn't going to work, an employee isn't going to change, or your work is making you unhappy, stop persisting and running towards failure everyday. Certain things will not work out. Learn how to identify them.

Discover more success secrets to improve your relationship communication by subscribing to Joshua Uebergang's Tower of Power eNewsletter at