Olympic silver medalist, Entrepreneur and Aldata Senior Executive, David Wilkins shares his story
David Wilkins, Senior Executive Category Optimization for Aldata, and founder of Cosmic Solutions, holds a unique place in the Olympics record books.
David’s the only Irishman to have won an Olympic medal for sailing, having struck silver in 1980 at the Moscow games. In total he competed in five Olympic Games and will play an active role during this year’s Olympic Sailing Event in Weymouth, England.
A competitor in sport and in business
“I’m a competitive person,” says David. “And that’s what drove me on in my sport. I was lucky to have that talent for sailing and I like the cut and thrust of competition. Winning the silver in 1980 was a moment I will never forget for the rest of my life.”
That same competitive spirit drove David on in his business life too. Following a successful career at Mars, he founded Cosmic Solutions in 1992 which was acquired by Aldata in 2010.
Does he see any connections between success in sport and business?
“There are definitely good analogies between sport and business. You have competitors trying to knock you off your pedestal. You have your ups and downs: the wind, the waves, and the currents. You have to minimise your risks. And when you get knocked down, you have to pick yourself up and carry on. Everything connected with sport is the same in business.”
The parallels between sport and business emerge in other ways too. Just as successful senior executives need to think strategically and relate to people, winning in sport requires team work and the ability to cope with adverse natural conditions.
But some would argue that the top performers possess something beyond talent and natural ability: mental toughness. They excel when the pressure is on.
“To succeed, you need energy, determination, preparation, skill and ability. But preparation is the key to everything. We all know how vital it is in business. And it’s just as true in sailing.”
Always looking for new challenges
Top performers in sport and business share another characteristic too: the ability to reinvent themselves and stay ahead of the competition. Alongside his successful business career, David is still heavily involved in British Sport.
He works closely with the British Olympic sailing team, and notes how much more commitment it takes to succeed today.
“Today, the sailing people competing at the Olympics I know are full-time. It’s their job. It’s what they do. They’ve been preparing for 4 years or more. While I was competing, I had the balance between work and sport. But today, people are full-time doing their sports. That’s the level you have to work at to have any chance of winning the Olympics.”
He’s also involved in Race Management at the major events. He’s very excited to be involved in this summer’s Olympic sailing in Weymouth. As well as supporting the British sailing team he’ll be running the finish boat. This means managing the entire finish of the race, monitoring the order in which boats finish the race and recording the results.
Memories of his silver medal success in 1980 are certain to come flooding back. “Standing on that podium is like nothing else that has happened before or since. You’re representing your country. Your competitors stand and cheer you on. You never forget it.”
And it’s a moment he likes to share with others when he’s invited to. “If I’m involved in something, particularly a junior or youth event, I’ll take the medal along with me. I think it helps to inspire young people. When they see that silver medal, you can see their eyes light up.”
Nor has David stopped racing himself. He may not be sailing at international level now, but he still goes racing whenever he can.
“I race for pleasure. I like the competition. It’s the same in business. I like the cut and thrust of competition.”
- To listen to the podcast of an interview with five-times Olympian David Wilkins click on the player below.
- Have we missed any other connections between sport and business? Let us know what you think by joining the discussion on LinkedIn.
Olympic silver medalist, Entrepreneur and Aldata Senior Executive, David Wilkins shares his story.
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