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How an injury propelled Edwin Moses

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in Leaders & Managers,Leadership Skills

As a 17-year-old competitive runner, Edwin Moses lined up for a high school race. Turning to the backstretch, he felt a stabbing pain in his hamstring.

Determined not to let his injury stymie his dreams of becoming a top track-and-field athlete, Moses spent his senior year of high school rehabbing his pulled hamstring. As an experiment, he tried to hurdle leading with his left leg.

Right-handed people, like Moses, tend to lead with their right leg in the hurdle. But his hamstring injury made it impossible for him to do so.

Moses trained himself to do what initially felt awkward—push off with his left leg. Eventually, it came naturally to him.

Despite the severity of his injury, Moses was lucky in terms of timing. He was still young enough to alter his hurdling technique and switch legs before it became ingrained.

Arriving at Morehouse College in the fall of 1973, his hurdling skills had measurably improved. He was on his way to perfecting his craft.

Now 61, Moses went on to earn gold medals at the 1976 and 1984 Olympics. The 1980 boycott deprived him of another chance to win the gold.

His decision to treat his injury as a challenge to overcome, rather than a crushing blow, exemplifies how champions think. Growing up in Dayton, Ohio, Moses loved science and even collected fossils and plants. His hamstring setback enabled him to test his skills as a scientist and experimenter—and he passed.

— Adapted from Players, Matthew Futterman, Simon & Schuster.

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