Competing at an Olympics is one thing but to actually win gold is a different matter altogether. Such success is by definition rare so what sets the gold medallists apart asks Adam Gibson?
If you take a quick listen to any gold medallist interviewed, you're likely to hear words such as "dedication", "sacrifice" and "commitment" commonly used. And while these words might sound a tad clichéd, some of Australia's top sportspeople and coaches say they're used with good reason.
"Talent will give you 40 percent, training will give you another 40 percent, but the last 20 percent is where that real dedication, sacrifice and commitment come into it," says former Olympic kayaker and acclaimed national team coach Jimmy Walker.
"To win gold, the motivation has to come from within; the athlete has to want it themselves. Someone who has got that spirit is someone who is awake before their alarm, their routine is set in stone and they're ready to get up and go to training every day. They eat well and look after themselves; that self-motivation is really important, it makes a big difference."
Gold medal-winning Australian water polo goalkeeper Liz Weekes concurs, saying it's the dedication to doing "that little bit extra" which is vital to success at the Olympic level.
"When we won gold in Sydney in 2000, we won with a goal from Yvette Higgins with one second remaining," says Weekes. "But for so long Yvette would get me to do extra work after we'd actually finished training and she'd keep practising this same shot over and over. And that was the shot that she pulled out in the Olympic final. That's really what it takes, dedication like that."
Weekes says she set her own course towards the Olympics as far back as primary school, inspired by the sight of Aussie competitors taking on the world in Moscow in 1980.
"I remember watching the Moscow Olympics and thinking ‘that's what I want to do!’" she says.
When she eventually got to the Games, her childhood dreams came true with gold in Sydney. "To compete in a home Olympics was just an absolute fairy-tale, and to win gold with my parents and everyone I've ever known there was just amazing," Weekes says.
Walker, a renowned sports motivator and commentator, whose K4 kayak team made the semi-finals at the 1996 Atlanta Games, says such support from family and friends is hugely significant.
"Parents are a vital link in the chain towards success," he says. "One of the key things about getting to that level is being to some degree selfish. No elite athlete isn't selfish you have to be and often parents are there to help keep that focus, driving them to events, feeding them, looking after them."
Allied to that focus, Walker says, is a need to overcome the temptations to just be "a normal person". "If you're aiming to win gold, everything you do has a consequence," he says. "When you're 18 and all your friends are going out drinking and eating poorly, that's what breaks many young athletes. You can't party and eat bad food every weekend if you want to win at that level."
"It has nothing to do with how many times you win or lose … [it has] everything to do with having the vision to dream, the courage to recover from adversity and the determination never to be shifted from your goals."
But for those who do make it to the Olympics and go on to win gold, all the early mornings, strict diet regimes, heavy training sessions and personal life sacrifices are worth it. As Weekes says, "I have absolutely no regrets, the sacrifices I made were all worth it and winning gold is something that I will have for the rest of my life."