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David Florence doing slalom in a canoe

Resilience in the face of adversity.

LR ambassador David Florence reveals how he has overcome setbacks on the water to win three Olympic silver medals and the lessons which can be taken into business.

You can go to Olympics, do everything right and get the wrong result – that’s always a possibility. So much can go wrong in such a small period of time, especially in a sport like canoeing. All you can do is give yourself the best chance of achieving your goals by doing your best with the things you can control - being aware of that makes it a lot easier to handle setbacks.

Mindset, attitude and approach are the key to overcoming disappointment and getting the results and rewards that you strive for.

David Florence canoeing

1. Turning negatives into positives

In Beijing, my first Olympics, things went great. I won silver behind the great Michal Martikan, a huge achievement given where I had been just a few years earlier. London was different and after failing to qualify for the final of the C1, I had two days before the C2 to get over it and prepare. Of course, I was disappointed - I had been world No. 1 for most of the previous four years but, on the day, I didn't get it right. Going onto being part of a team I had to ensure my disappointment didn't impact my partner Richard Hounslow and our coach.

I sat them down and said I was turning my disappointment into a positive as instead of having to wait four years I was in the unique situation of going again just two days later.

At that time nobody else competed in both C1 and C2 - they required very different skills and were effectively two separate events.

I could have felt sorry for myself and let the disappointment take over or get myself back into the right frame of mind, pretend the C1 race had never happened and prepare for the C2. I opted for the latter and we missed out on gold by the smallest of margins but paddled superbly to win silver.

2. Focus on the things you can control

Four years later in Rio, the C1 was a disappointment again. I had won the World Championships in both 2013 and 2015 and got to the final this time but as fastest but made one small error and it cost me - that's the nature of canoeing as a sport. Coming to the C2 again the pressure was on and the format had changed so the semi-final counted for nothing. The top ten went again and everything was on one run in the final. The level of competition was phenomenal and people were putting in times five seconds quicker than the semi-finals. All we could do was focus on what was in our control and put into practice everything we’d worked on for the previous four years. We were quick and won another Olympic silver.

3. Look ahead not backwards

Resilience is also about longevity and to achieve that I focus on the things I enjoy about the sport. I don't do things half-heartedly - you have put everything into it. Continuing to look forward and set yourself new goals and challenges is important. The margins in top-level sport are tiny - just a handful of seconds is the difference between me being a triple Olympic champion instead of winning the three silver medals but there's no point looking back and saying, 'if only'. The standards get higher every year - you have to get better and better. Resilience is success in the sense of winning races and medals but it's also rewarding to get better and improve yourself by working on your skills, day-in, day-out.

Three-time world canoeing champion David Florence - sponsored by LR

If you stand still you will get overtaken and left behind.

David is competing in the Australian Canoe Open in Sydney from Feb 15-17. Follow our social pages to see how he fares as he starts the long road to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, supported by Lloyd's Register.


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