What Makes Champions Bounce Back?

55 wins, 5 losses. Last Sunday, Kento Momota made history again, becoming the first Japanese men’s singles player to win the All England title. You don’t need to understand badminton as a sport to see the talent, grace and almost Zen-like approach that this 24-year-old champion has. Do you just think why haven’t you heard as much of him as you have heard about Srikanth, Axelsen or Son Wan Ho?

Momota had a great start to his badminton career, reaching the world number two ranking by the time he was just out of his teens. And just when he looked all set to become a legend, a judgement of error firmly put the brakes on. In 2016, he was banned by the Japanese Badminton National Federation for illegal gambling in a casino, a breach of the Japanese Federation code. His former coach went on to say that although Kento had a natural abundance of skill, the key ingredient he lacked towards world domination was, no surprises here, discipline.

As a result of the ban, Kento was stripped of all his rankings and points. His comeback trail has been a story of endless physical rigour playing to empty halls, understanding humility playing much junior ranked players, and an appreciation of his craft away from all the spotlight. Almost as if in penance.  Today, the experts who wrote him off in 2016, him say he’s never looked more intimidating.

So, what makes champions, who make human mistakes and are punished for it, get back up and start anew? In the case of Momota, we are sure a never-say-die attitude coupled with genuine contrition were the drivers. We also believe, Momota loved the game too much.

In the corporate world, Uber’s Travis Kalanick seems to be emerging as the big comeback story of the year. After his highly publicised exit from Uber (for reasons he seems to have paid for), Kalanick seems to be bouncing back with his real-estate company, City Storage Systems (CSS), the latest “Next Big Thing’ ’in the world of city space optimization ventures. What do they do? Simple, lease out distressed real estate assets, convert them into delivery only kitchens (or cloud kitchens, if you will), and tap the existing food delivery ecosystem. Closer home, Binny Bansal aims to come back, with his latest venture xto10x, whose vision is to give back to the same ecosystem, which gave him and Sachin the opportunity to create the most influential start-up story of our country. The reason? We believe they love the game too much.

The learning we take from such stories is that: it is the pursuit of our passion that has to be the end goal along with respect for the hard work and commitment it takes. Succeed or fail, lets acknowledge that the game is bigger than us.