Swimmer Michael Phelps won his 20th medal at the London Olympics yesterday, but one could argue that his 19th, earned on Tuesday, was a bigger moment. That’s when he became the most decorated Olympian of all time, passing the previous record-holder, Soviet gymnast Larisa Latynina, who won 18 medals between 1956 and 1964.
If you missed the article that the New York Times wrote about the now 77-year-old Latynina this week, you should read it now. (If the direct link doesn’t work, search for “Soviet gymnast Larisa Latynina New York Times” to find the story.) The Times reported, “Latynina joked in recent weeks that it was time for a man to be able to do what a woman had done long ago.” She added in a phone interview, “Forty-eight years is almost enough time to hold a record.” I like her attitude!
I like her spunk too. When Latynina was competing, women’s gymnastics wasn’t a sport for teenagers. She won her last six medals in 1964, she was almost 30. But I was more blown away by what she did in the 1958 Olympics, when she won five medals while she was four months pregnant. She kept her pregnancy secret — even from her coach. Only her doctor knew. “I couldn’t say anything because they wouldn’t have allowed me to participate,” Latynina told the Times. (Her daughter, Tatyana, laughed and said of the medals, “I consider them mine. We won them together.”)
Also worth reading in the Times is yesterday’s article about Kari Sigerson and Miranda Morrison, the founders of the shoe line Sigerson Morrison, which first rose to fame in the 1990s. Like many other designers, they thought they found the investor of their dreams and sold most of their company to him in 2006, including, fatefully, their name. They stayed on as “co-heads of design” but things deteriorated. They suspected the investor, Marc Fisher, was knocking off their work for his other, discount shoe lines. He also cut costs by moving production to China from Italy, though Sigerson and Morrison feared that would damage their brand image. Last year, Fisher fired the founders and then sued them. Sigerson and Morrison have countersued. It’s getting hard to keep track of the number of designers who have lost the rights to their names in deals gone bad. I wrote about Herve Leger last month. In March, Simon Spurr — who won Fashion Group International’s Rising Star Award for menswear in January at the same time I won the award for jewelry — left his eponymous label after a conflict with his investor. (The Times reported today that the collection Spurr showed in February won’t make it to stores.) The Times also makes note of similar situations experienced by Halston, Doo-Ri Chung Daryl Kerrigan and Jil Sander.
There are two lessons here. One applies to fashion designers: Think about what you’re selling when you sell off all your intellectual property, especially the name! I understand the desperation for money to survive and thrive in this business but if you wind up with nothing but legal fees in the long run, what’s the point?
The other lesson applies to everyone, regardless of career (or age, if you’re still in school). Don’t waste time envying other people’s apparent success — their jobs, salaries, reputations, relationships, families, anything. You have no idea what’s going on behind the scenes, where everything might be on the verge of collapse. Meanwhile, you’re taking energy away from what you can be doing to improve your own life. I discussed this with gorgeous designer/blogger and former competitive swimmer Stacy Lomman the other day when she wasn’t glued to the Olympics to watch Phelps and his teammate Ryan Lochte. She told me the advice she got while swimming was: “Swim your own race!”
While you’re at it: mind your own hair. I can’t believe the snarky things I’ve read online about Olympic gold-medal gymnast Gabrielle Douglas’s hair. Douglas is a world-class athlete at age 16, not a hair model. I don’t get that excited about the ends of my own hair, let alone someone else’s. Priorities, people!