Being a great competitor is very much like creating a painting or a writing a beautiful song. If we look at some of the greatest artists, Salvador Dali, Leonardo Da Vinci, Escher, they were incredibly well versed in the rigid confines of any medium. They were also able to break those confines, Escher for one was able to make the dimensions of his artwork almost contradict mathematical norm.
We can look at incredible musicians, and the new and different styles they ushered forth. The simplicity of the musical arrangements of the Beatles, the complexity of Beethoven and Wagner, layering so many different complicated pieces by so many different instruments into a cohesive piece.
Great competition is a human work of art. It is the ability to summon ones will, motivation, defiance and absolute creativity under intense time pressure. It is the ability to invent solutions to problems in the heat of the moment. It is the ability to read body language, to put on a display of your own, and to refuse to believe certain feelings that every fiber of your being is reporting to the senses as true.
It is the ability to go far beyond what you know to be possible for yourself, and step into the land of your beliefs and the unknown and your imagination. It is the ability to work in a medium that might be limited, but yet still find a way to express it that is astonishing.
It is consuming, maddening, expressive, joyous, exhilaratingly free, and above all else, the most richly rewarding feeling in the world.
I think it is in our human nature to explore and create, and competitive athletes are no different.