In 2015 during one of my many visits to Almería I was sitting in the circuit restaurant with clients who have become good friends. A rider somewhere is his early 20s walked in making maximum noise, hand gestures and walking as cool as possible. One of the guys I was sitting with said that he was with the Spanish Moto2 team that just arrived and asked if I knew who he was. Without really thinking I replied “I don’t know but he’s not as good as he thinks he is”. My friends then asked me why I thought this. Oh dear, I’d thought out loud and now I had to explain.
Sports people go through different stages, just like everyone in life, but in sport the highs and lows are extreme. In motorcycle racing the highs mean you’ve won the race and everyone is kissing your butt. The low’s… you haven’t got a ride, you’re injured and you can’t wipe your own butt. As sports people work their way up, over time and with experience they learn to try to smooth out the extremes by not getting carried away with the highs, and not getting too down about the lows. Keeping on a level helps a sports person survive the emotional roller coaster of competing over a long period, but it’s never easy. I was fortunate enough to race at the top of my sport for a little while and during this time I got to meet many others at the top of their chosen careers. I trained with a hero of mine Mick Doohan for 3 off-seasons. Through Mick I got to cycle with Michael Schumacher and many other car racers, some of the best triathletes in Australia and the world, a top boxer and many other top motorcycle racers. While racing I was invited by RedBull to the Salzburg Opera with Johnny Herbert and many other RedBull sports people. During my years of crazy flight schedules for tests and races I made ‘single serve friends’ on aeroplanes such as Madonna’s tour manager, the owner of Ebay and a huge list of others that I’ve forgotten but I really enjoyed meeting. Because of my nationality I got the extreme honour to meet some of the All Blacks and go out on the water with Team New Zealand on their America’s Cup winning Yacht. Every one of these highly successful people are outwardly respectful, polite, professional and humble.
In order to get to the top a person has to compete with the very best and so learns the hard way that there are many others that deserve their respect. They would’ve experienced being beaten when they were over-confident and if they’re clever they’ll never make that mistake again. Once a person has experienced many things like this the hard way, they know that only a ‘big fish in a small pond’ (a good rider in a national championship or lower) would dare to act like the young Moto2 rider I’ve mentioned above. Sure there are a few very talented riders who make it all the way to the top with an outwardly over confident attitude, but its very rare and doesn’t often last long.
The positive thing about all this is that when we get the opportunity to meet one of the world championship riders that we admire, as long as we have not caught them at a very bad time, they are almost always extremely respectful, humble and polite.