“I don’t think being famous is very attractive. That is not what lifts you up. You don’t have to build an archive. You don’t have to panic over your number of volumes. The object of a masterpiece is giving yourself away.”
–Boris Pasternak, Nobel Prize winning Russian writer
The lines above comprise part of a poem that Russian wrestler Buvaysar Saytiev recited before all of his matches.
A little about Saytiev: he was perhaps one of the most dominant wrestlers ever…definitely in the top 5 of all time. He won three Olympic gold medals (Atlanta, Athens, Beijing), and six world championship medals. In thirteen years, he only lost two bouts.
The poem continues,
It’s not about the noise, it’s not about the success. It’s embarrassing that just because you’ve created something that you’re on the lips of other people. Just because you’ve achieved something that doesn’t mean that everyone should be talking about you. Just because you’ve won. It is only a piece of you defined.
About the poem, Saytiev says,
These words are going to stay with me for the rest of my life. It is going to be very hard to forget them. These words have defined my life both inside and outside of sport. When I truly understood this poem, it was the moment when somebody was lifting up my hand as a champion wrestler and I realized that this is all bull***t. I am the only one who understands how much I put into this victory and whether or not I deserve it. Already from my youth I had an abstract view of victory. I had different goals than my opponents. Even when I was a child I thought that if I become the champion of my city it is not going to be important. All I really wanted to know was my limit. Because of the attitude I carried, I once had an astronomical score in the finals of the USSR championship. I won 17-0. Everyone said it was unreal.
I wish I could burn the words of the poem in the soul of every student I teach. I, myself, would do well to remember Pasternak’s masterpiece.
Here is a video of Saytiev (There are also a few clips of his brother Adam in the video. Adam is also a world champion.):