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Winning after Winning: The Psychology of Ongoing Excellence

Kathy Kreiner-Phillips and Terry Orlick

The purpose of this study was to explore the effects of success on athletes who reached the top of the world in their sport. Individual in-depth interviews were conducted with 17 world champion athletes, representing 7 different sports and 4 different countries. All athletes, 11 males and 6 females, had won major international competitions (World Cup, World Championships, and/or Olympic Games) between the years 1964 and 1988. The number of individual World Cup wins ranged from 1 to 86. The results indicate that athletes who became the best in their sport, subsequently experienced many additional demands. Most had little or no assistance in dealing with these demands. Approximately one third of these athletes coped well with the additional demands and continued to win. The remaining two thirds did not handle the additional demands as well and either never repeated their winning performance or took a significant amount of time to do so. Strategies to help prepare future champions to handle the demands of winning are suggested.