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10 Success Secrets of Olympic Greats Successful entrepreneurs and Olympians have more in common than you might think. As London welcomes the newest group of world-class athletes, we rounded up the best success tips from several of the most memorable gold medalists.

By Kara Ohngren Prior

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Owning a successful business isn't too different from competing in the Olympic Games. For both, you'll likely work your entire life to get there and once you do, it's a battle everyday to stay on top. Entrepreneurs and Olympians fight to overcome immense obstacles, beat out fierce competition and silence the cynics.

As London welcomes the world's greatest athletes, here's a look at 10 success secrets from some of the most legendary gold medalists of all time. So sit back, grab your American flag and take in these winning strategies.

Michael Phelps, Swimming

Olympics: 2004, 2008, 2012

Medals: 18 gold, two silver, two bronze

Success secret: Stay laser-focused on your goals, despite what your skeptics may say.

Many experts thought it was impossible for any athlete to win eight gold medals in a single Olympics. Phelps never listened to the naysayers and managed to win gold in all eight events he swam in Beijing. He also holds the records for gold medals, gold medals in individual events, and Olympic medals in individual events for a male. He's considered the greatest Olympian of all time.

Image courtesy of

UPDATE: This article has been revised to include the medals Phelps won in the 2012 London Olympics.

Mary Lou Retton, Gymnastics

Olympics: 1984

Medals: One gold, two silver, two bronze

Success secret: Don't back down from the competition -- they will likely bring out the best in you.

Retton battled Romania's Ecaterina Szabó for the all-around Olympic title in 1984. Going into the final two disciplines, Retton trailed by 15 hundredths of a point. But, she managed to score perfect 10s on both the floor exercise and vault to become the first female gymnast from outside Eastern Europe to win the Olympic all-around title.

Image courtesy of

Greg Louganis, Diving

Olympics: 1976, 1984, 1988

Medals: Four gold, one silver

Success secret: Never give up. When great obstacles arise, pick yourself up and get back in the game.

In 1988, Louganis dramatically slammed his head into the springboard while completing a dive in the preliminary rounds, giving him a concussion. Astoundingly he was able to recover and went on to win the gold medal.

Image courtesy of

Jackie Joyner-Kersee, Track and Field

Olympics: 1984, 1988, 1992, 1996

Medals: Three gold, one silver, two bronze

Success secret: Giving back goes a long way.

Joyner-Kersee has become known just as much for her philanthropic efforts as for her impressive long jump. In 1988, she founded the Jackie Joyner-Kersee Foundation to teach children, adults and families athletic lessons that will improve their quality of life.

Image courtesy of Only A Game

Mark Spitz, Swimming

Olympics: 1968, 1972

Medals: Nine gold, one silver, one bronze

Success secret: Be nimble. When something isn't working, change your strategy quickly and get back on track.

Spitz predicted he would win six gold medals at the 1968 Mexico City games -- he walked away with just two relay team golds. Disappointed, he stepped up his training regimen and decided to swim at Indiana University for legendary coach Doc Counsilman. "Mark the Shark" came back four years later to win a then record-setting seven gold medals at the Munich games.

Image courtesy of

Carl Lewis, Track and Field

Olympics: 1984, 1988, 1992, 1996

Medals: Nine gold, one silver

Success secret: Always be promoting and selling yourself.

Due to his long, successful career and the increased television exposure, Lewis is credited with transforming track and field into its current mainstream status. This allowed top athletes in the sport to land endorsements and thus have more lucrative, longer-lasting careers.

Image courtesy of

Dara Torres, Swimming

Olympics: 1984, 1988, 1992, 2000, 2008

Medals: Four gold, four silver, four bronze

Success secret: It's never too late to realize your dreams.

After sitting out the 1996 and 2004 Olympics, Torres became the oldest swimmer ever to earn a place on the U.S. Olympic team in 2008. She competed in Beijing at the age of 41. Her Olympic career spans a staggering twenty-four years.

Image courtesy of Team Fenom

Jesse Owens, Track and Field

Olympics: 1936

Medals: Four gold

Success secret: Never count out the underdog.

Owens surprised many by winning four gold medals at the 1936 Berlin Olympics. But, his victories were made even more poignant by quashing Adolf Hitler's intentions to use the games to show "Aryan racial superiority." Owens, an African-American sharecropper's son from Alabama, emerged as the games' top performer.

Image courtesy of Run

Michael Johnson, Track and Field

Olympics: 1992, 1996, 2000

Medals: Four gold

Success secret: Creating a unique, memorable identity will take you far.
With his unorthodox upright running style and custom-designed gold Nike racing spikes, "The Man With the Golden Shoes" was the talk of the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games long after the closing ceremonies.

Image courtesy of Sporting Heroes

Golden shoes image courtesy of Wikmedia Commons/klew97

The Dream Team, Basketball

Olympics: 1992

Medals: One gold

Success secret: Assemble a top-notch team.

This was the first American Olympic team to include active NBA players. Described by reporters as the greatest sports team ever constructed, The Dream Team defeated its opponents by an average of nearly 44 points, won the gold medal and became a cultural phenomenon.

Image courtesy of

Kara Ohngren is a freelance writer and part-time editor at YoungEntrepreneur. Her work has appeared in publications including Entrepreneur Magazine, The New York Times, MSNBC, The Huffington Post and Business Insider.

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