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Quotes From 13 Extreme Athletes on Overcoming Fear

When athletes are put to the test, we witness them going up against obstacles on the playing field: their opponents, the out-of-bounds lines, or the goal where they must score. But often, it's an unseen fear that can be the toughest to overcome. Confidence is a key factor in an athlete’s ability to succeed, as some of the most successful stars have noted: Babe Ruth encouraged us to “never let the fear of striking out keep you from playing the game,” while Wayne Gretzky famously quipped that “you miss 100% of the shots you don't take.”

Sometimes, it can be hard to find the courage to take those shots — a feeling all of us face from time to time, whether it’s taking risks or getting butterflies before life’s big moments. For many athletes, harnessing their fears unlocks the potential for greatness, and it’s a lesson we can all benefit from. Here’s what these extreme athletes and trainers have said about handling fear.

Skateboarding teaches you how to take a fall properly. If you try to kickflip down some stairs, it might take you 30 tries — and you just learn how to take a tumble out of it without getting hurt.
— Bam Margera, professional skateboarder, stunt performer, and television personality

People say to me all the time, “You have no fear.” I tell them, “No, that’s not true. I’m scared all the time. You have to have fear in order to have courage. I’m a courageous person because I’m a scared person.”
— Ronda Rousey, former UFC & WWE Women’s Champion

If you’re convinced you’re going to fail, or fall, or get hurt, that will come to fruition because that’s what you’re visualizing… That’s really what separates a lot of people from being world champions or from being as good as they can.
— Tony Hawk, professional skateboarder and 10-time X Games gold medalist

My fear of losing surfing was greater than my fear of sharks.
— Bethany Hamilton, professional surfer and author who lost her arm in a shark attack

I should add that at no time does fear disappear. It’s just as bad in the hundredth fight as it was in the first, except by the time he reaches a hundred fights or long before that, he’s developed enough discipline where he can learn to live with it, which is the object, to learn to live with it.
— Cus D’Amato, boxing manager for world heavyweight champions Mike Tyson, Floyd Patterson, and others

Right out of high school I never had the fear of getting beat, which is how most people lose.
— Dan Gable, Olympic gold medal-winning wrestler

Getting hit motivates me. It makes me punish the guy more. A fighter takes a punch, hits back with three punches.
— Roberto Durán, former world champion boxer

You can’t stress about sharks. I mean, is it even hungry? The way I think about it is, there are 460 species of shark and 456 of them aren’t bothered about eating you.
— Kelly Slater, 11-time World Surf League champion

The hardest thing for a person is to go out, give it 100%, do everything you can at that time to succeed, and then have failure.
— Levi LaVallee, professional snowmobiler and 13-time X Games medalist

Fear is such a personal thing, but in a lot of situations, fear is just a reaction of the human brain, which is wired to convince us that what we may want to do is a bad idea. When we face fear, we have to ask ourselves how badly we want that thing that we’re afraid of, and how can we learn to work through the fear when we feel it.
— Samantha Larson, mountain climber who once was the youngest person to climb the Seven Summits

If you have fear then it means you are not living in the moment. You are either stuck in the past or worrying about the future. It is important to not think and just do! Follow your heart and fear does not exist.
— Garrett McNamara, big-wave surfer and eight-time Guinness World Record holder for the largest wave ever surfed

Preparation reduces risk because it enables you to deal with situations as they arise. If you are prepared, then you know you have the answer, and you can rely on their training. There is then less to fear as you know you can cope.
— Robert Herbst, world champion powerlifter

Photo credit: Jaguar/ Alamy Stock Photo

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About the Author
Sean Neumann
Sean Neumann is a writer and reporter based in Chicago, Illinois.
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