Stella BIDA, in conversation with Kurt COUTO, 4x Olympic Athlete 400m hurdles, Mozambique
Summarised conversation transcript
This is a summary version of the conversation. More details, stories, and amazing insights are mentioned in the video!
Kurt COUTO has been competing over the last 16 years at the Olympic games. He is a four-time olympian and he is heading towards his olympics, for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.
STELLA BIDA: Kurt you have been in the olympian environment for over 16 years now. What is the meaning of being part of this journey?
KURT COUTO: It is something that I first saw on the television growing up. When I managed to be at the Olympic games, it was almost like a surreal feeling because not everyone that is training in the sport gets to make it, and not everyone gets to be selected for the Olympics. Now I made it four times and I'm part of this group. When you look at the statistics of how many people actually make it, you understand that you have achieved something quite monumental. It's quite an achievement to be an athlete competing at the Olympics!
STELLA BIDA: Do you still have the pain of the training or are your brain and body already accustomed to the pain and you don't feel it anymore? What happens inside your brain?
KURT COUTO: It definitely does not get easier in terms of recovery, but the pain is still there. It does not matter how long you've been going through it, trainings are tough sessions. I still feel the nervousness during the warm ups as well as before major competitions. The only thing that gets tougher is the recovery because of my age.
STELLA BIDA: How do you stay competitive and still relevant for your game at the Olympics?
KURT COUTO: Staying competitive requires a desire and a goal. Desire is there because you want to do it, you want to perform, you want to represent your country. Now, for instance, my goal is to try and achieve the 5th Olympic games and that also gives me a drive. I've already done four Olympics, there are five rings on the Olympic flag, so that is why I want to get to a fifth one. I will be completing the Olympic rings!
STELLA BIDA: The number five is a very important number if I understand well in your Olympian journey?
KURT COUTO: Yes, that number is a very important one. Being realistic, competing for a gold medal right now will take really a lot out of me. Though it's not impossible. I will need to run way below my personal best. So my biggest goal right now is to make it to my fifth Olympics and I'll take it one step at a time.
STELLA BIDA: You have taught me a lot about goal setting. How do you set your mind to compete with yourself instead of getting distracted by others? How does one not get distracted?
KURT COUTO: You really need to be focused. Running a race that is not your race, you will either run too slow or too fast and blow out. At the 2012 London Olympics, at the semi-final, I clipped the hurdle and I almost stumbled. When I heard the crowd shouting, I understood that I was not getting ahead and then I froze. This totally threw me out of my out of my race. If I focused on trying to get my rhythm back, the result would have been different. This is one of the lessons I've learned. Execute your own race, otherwise things can go horribly wrong, very quickly.
STELLA BIDA: What are the life lessons that you have taken from being an Olympic athlete, that you also use in your life?
KURT COUTO: First of all, perseverance, an important value that the olympics have taught me related to setting goals. Set yourself some goals and try to achieve them. Most importantly, don't compete with other people. You have your own story to tell. You go through life at your own pace. Don't get distracted from your own life trying to chase someone else. You will end up not living your own, chasing someone else's. Things can end up horribly wrong. Improve yourself in order to get your life goals. I would rather try to beat the clock to better my time. Grow your own values, try and grow your own self, make yourself stronger in order to go and achieve those goals.
STELLA BIDA: You once told me that the goal is not to be defined as what you do, as being an olympian. What did you mean by that?
KURT COUTO: I meant that the sport goes on, but then you can leave a mark in the sport. So being defined then by: Kurt was a good athlete, however he managed to help A-B-C or he managed to fight for X-Y-Z. It is about actually leaving a legacy behind, not just being Kurt the athlete. People will turn back and think that Kurt was much more that a 400 meter runner, Kurt actually did more. And this is why they look up at Kurt. Of course, they might start by looking up to Kurt because of his athletic talent, but then as they get to know more about him, they realise that he was also a Human Being...
STELLA BIDA: What would you like to be remembered for?
KURT COUTO: I would like to be remembered for being a person in athletics that never gave up, irrespective of his age! He got out of his comfort zone in order to achieve his goals. That is what I would like to be remembered for.
STELLA BIDA: What would you tell a person in order to be in that continuous reinvention of him or herself, and not quitting because sometimes life just throws these hurdles at us - and it's not easy to jump...
KURT COUTO: First of all, it is all about taking a step back, packing everything, and putting all of the baggage out to see what you really need to cut out. It is important in order to make any decision and to stick to it. Then, have the courage to take a step forward in leaving what you decided to leave behind and focussing on what lies ahead of you. Then it is about taking one step at a time and going through the challenges.
STELLA BIDA: What would you whisper to your 10 year old self if you had him in front of you?
KURT COUTO: Oh! This is a real good one! I would tell him to start living his dream a whole lot sooner. I wouldn't wait to be 17 years old before running. I would tell him to find what he loves and start doing it sooner. The other advice that I would share with him is, even though we have to live in the now, plan for the life after. In other words, if you do something, do it for yourself, but also plan on doing something for the future generation, so that they can benefit as well. For example, if you are interested in building a road, build the road out of your own driveway, but then stretch that road up to the main road too. So that people can then benefit, even 100 years later.
STELLA BIDA: Is there any other advice for people who are asking themselves what they can do, because they feel lost at any point of their lives?
KURT COUTO: I would say that it is in moments of true desperation that you see your own true character. So I would recommend them to reflect to find their answers. I believe that it is in the moments of despair that you find the true answers and that you start digging your way out.
STELLA BIDA: Wow! I had to ask that question. Thank you so much for your generosity today! I'm so happy! You have taught me personally so much and I'm happy that you're also now sharing with everyone else!
What did you enjoy? How do you think that this will help you in making your life and career vision happen?
We'd love to hear from you!