Gold medals aren’t really made of gold. They’re made of sweat, determination, and a hard-to-find alloy called guts. – Dan Gable

Who Was Dan Gable?

Dan Mack Gable is a wrestler and wrestling coach of American origin. He’s won several gold medals and is usually said to be among the greatest wrestlers in history. He’s been an NCAA Division I national champion twice, won an Olympic gold medal and a world gold medal as well. In 2020, he also attained the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

As a teenager, Gable faced personal tragedy when his sister was raped and killed at the age of 19. Calling this his greatest loss, Gable said that he took this incident as a motivating factor to work even harder, train more determinedly, and strive to succeed with all his might. He later said in one of his interviews:

“The more you can settle into focusing on what you have and what you would like to do and where you want to go — a positive point of view — the quicker things turn around and positive things start to happen.”

Dan Gable Quote

The Origin of the Quote

While this quote about gold medals is undoubtedly attributed to Dan Gable, it’s not really clear when and where the legendary wrestling champion actually uttered these words. He may have said the quote during one of his interviews, or perhaps in his book called ‘A Wrestling Life: The Inspiring Stores of Dan Gable’. Nevertheless, it’s evident that he took his profession very seriously and was focused on winning throughout his career.

Career highlights

The time period between 1971 and 1973 was very successful for Gable. During this time, he won gold medals at the 1971 world championships, the 1971 Tbilisi Tournament, and the 1972 Olympics as well. In the Olympics that year, Gable was able to win all six matches with no points to his opponents. After these successful years, Gable did compete occasionally for a couple of years before retiring and becoming a coach full time. He was also very successful in this field, with the teams he coached winning a lot of their competitions. He even became head coach for world teams and Olympic teams.

Gable has been featured in several books and magazines. In his hometown in Iowa, a museum was named after him. Needless to say, this is a man who knows what a gold medal is and how to get one.

The Recipe in the Quote

construction worker

This quote about gold medals is by a man who has won many of them. He talks about what it takes to earn a gold medal, not physically make it. It’s also not about how much money a person earns or how much they already have in the bank. The philosophy of success for Gable seems to lie in winning and being the best. During one of his interviews, Gable also mentioned that he knew he was going to win the 1972 Olympic gold medal for wrestling, but mainly because he couldn’t stand to relinquish a single point even during training.

The first item in the recipe Gable gives us for a gold medal is sweat. This probably doesn’t mean literal sweat every single time, though Olympic athletes obviously do sweat a lot on their way to the top. Within this quote, sweat symbolizes the effort one has to make in order to make it in their field. Whether this effort is done on a sports ground, in academics, or even the workplace, it’s one of the most important ingredients for success. During Gable’s career both as a wrestler and as a coach, he was relentless in giving only the top-notch results.  He knew that it was only after a lot of effort that one could attain perfection (or as near to it as possible).

The next item he talks about is determination. This implies that there will be hindrances along the way. An athlete may find it difficult to pass a certain level of training, while someone else may not be able to achieve their goals immediately due to health issues. Gable’s own determination is easy to see in his career. Even when he was down or when his childhood tragedy bothered him, he would follow through. He was always determined to be the best or to make his team the best of the lot.

The final and most difficult ingredient, according to Gable, is the alloy called guts. ‘Guts’ also refers to courage, even in the face of adversity. Some would say that guts are required when one realizes how much there is still to do. If you don’t have guts, you probably don’t have what it takes to win a gold medal. For Gable, one of the turning moments in his life was his final college wrestling match—this was the only one he lost in the course of his college career. After that loss, he was even more motivated to forge on ahead and prove his excellence.

The reference to guts as an ‘alloy’ is also interesting. This might allude to how having guts doesn’t just mean having courage or being brave–it’s a combination of different feelings and emotions. One might feel scared, incompetent, or just plain tired of trying so hard. It’s important to know when to stop as well. Moving forward even when you’re discouraged or have had enough is part of the journey that can take one to new heights.  Gable must have felt a lot of emotions with every win, including regret that his sister couldn’t be there to share his victories. His losses hit him even harder, but his guts were what kept him going.

Doing something difficult like winning an Olympic medal is something that only a small percentage of people achieve in a lifetime. This is because all that training, those practices, and other obstacles get very challenging as you go on. In that time, an athlete (or any other person striving for greatness) realizes that they will have to keep on making all this effort and strive for better results each time. Other than Dan Gable, Muhammad Ali is a good example for this alloy; in one interview, he mentioned that his training wasn’t at all enjoyable. However, he needed to have the guts to pull through so that he could be a champion and stay at a certain level of excellence.

How to Apply this Quote to Daily Life

How to Apply this Quote to Daily Life

Everyone takes on some challenging projects during their lifetime. This could be starting a business, starting a new job, or even nursing a sick person back to health. Just like Olympic athletes are trained and prepared to compete for a gold medal, regular people also have to strive to get their own gold medal in life.

This quote basically points towards what a person should do in order to achieve that successful status in their life. In short, they should be looking at each achievement a.k.a ‘gold medal’ as something gained after a lot of effort, determination, and good old guts.

Considering What is Really Important

Agenda organize with color-coding sticky

Of course, not every goal and project is equally important. We don’t strive for them all as hard as an Olympic athlete would strive for a gold medal. In order to ensure what our priorities are, it might be a good idea to physically list down the things that we want to achieve according to their importance. It would be even more helpful to include several aspects of life–work, family, socializing, etc.

After this, we should look at the list. Would not achieving any goal completely crush us down? If not, cut them out. The things that are left are those that truly matter to us. Are we willing to make an effort, to sweat for that goal? Are we prepared to stay determined and have the guts to keep going to accomplish something even when we’re burnt out and tired? If the answer is yes, then that accomplishment is our gold medal.


An Olympic gold medal may not be made of solid gold anymore, but it still stands for excellence and success in a particular field. Non-athletes can also strive to gain their own gold medals in other fields, but Dan Gable’s recipe for such a thing applies in most cases. We all have to work hard at our careers or professions, at our family life and social circles. Our gold medal goals may not be as awe-inspiring as the Olympic gold medal a talented athlete wins. However, even the goals that seem common and everyday to other people could be a great accomplishment from our vantage point.  At the end of the day, sweat, determination, and an alloy of guts is what it takes to do something that’s meaningful–and that’s what counts.