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The cheers fade, the echoes of oars slicing through water replaced by the measured tap of keyboards. James Thompson's world has pivoted from the exciting spectacle of Olympic and World Championship rowing to the dynamic landscape of entrepreneurship. His journey, an interplay of athletic and business achievement, serves as a source of inspiration, illuminating the path from athletic glory to corporate success.

Thompson’s 2012 London Olympics and 2014 World Rowing Championship gold medal in Amsterdam etched his name into rowing history. Yet, the joy of victory yielded to a daunting reality: life after competitive sports. The structured routine, the camaraderie, the laser focus on a singular goal – was in the past. He had to redefine “winning” beyond rowing, a challenge that ignited a different kind of fire within him.

(L-R) South Africa’s James Thompson, Matthew Brittain, John Smith and Sizwe Ndlovu sing their national anthem after receiving the gold medal in the men’s lightweight four final A of the rowing event during the London 2012 Olympic Games, at Eton Dorney Rowing Centre in Eton, west of London, on August 2, 2012. AFP PHOTO / ERIC FEFERBERG (Photo credit: ERIC FEFERBERG/AFP/GettyImages)

Thompson’s entrepreneurial spirit was fuelled by the thrill of building something new. After eight years of manoeuvring through the intricate landscape of the business world, he joined the Mentally Fit Africa team to continue energising South Africa and Africa. Led by Luc van der Hofstadt, who boasts nearly 30 years of experience in business coaching and training, empowering individuals and teams to achieve peak performance.

Established in 1996, Mentally Fit Global, the parent organisation of Mentally Fit Africa, aimed to optimise mental, emotional, physical and spiritual performance across diverse spheres – athletic, corporate, academic and artistic. Their unique coaching approach using sports metaphors, translated high-level athletic insights into practical business applications. With a global footprint encompassing multiple continents, over 150 coaches representing more than 20 nationalities over the 5 continents, Mentally Fit emphasised performance, utilising simple tools to enhance individual and team energy and a high-performance culture.

This collaboration with Mentally Fit was an obvious choice for James, as Mentally Fit’s approach of using an athletic mindset in the corporate world resonated with him. The mental strategies honed during his Olympic career integrated seamlessly with the demands of the corporate world. 

The unwavering discipline, attentiveness, ability to thrive under pressure, team-work and high-performance culture – all hallmarks of his Olympic success – proved to be invaluable assets in the corporate landscape. Thompson soon recognized that, just like in sports, triumph in business demanded a solid mental foundation.

Thompson’s unique coaching approach resonated with clients due to its authenticity and experience-driven nature. His athletic journey draws parallels between the challenges faced on the water and those encountered in a boardroom. The message is clear: for modern “Corporate Athletes”, sustaining peak performance is linked to managing energy effectively – a non-negotiable element for success in any competitive environment as energy and performance are intrinsically linked. 

An important concept at Mentally Fit is the ‘Corporate Athlete,’ a school of thought that rejects the “Corporate Kamikaze” mentality. It encourages individuals to optimise performance without wasting energy, fostering a balanced approach crucial for navigating any competitive corporate environment sustainably by knowing that recovery is as important as delivery. By embracing the mentality of the Corporate Athlete, individuals learn to cultivate self-awareness, emotional intelligence, and resilience – qualities that are instrumental for sustainable success. 

Mentally Fit’s diverse offerings cater to a broad spectrum of individuals and teams seeking to unlock their full potential. 

Mentally Fit is active in 4 different domains:

One-to-one coaching empowers individuals to develop personalised strategies for overcoming personal business challenges and maximising their impact. 

Team coaching fosters collaboration and shared accountability through a series of custom interventions tailored to the company’s needs allowing for teams to operate cohesively and achieve shared goals.

Team training equips individuals and teams with the tools and techniques to develop their full potential.

Inspirational keynotes, like those delivered by Thompson and his colleagues of Mentally Fit, serve as catalysts for organisational transformation, igniting motivation and sparking positive change. 

Corporate well-being programs, tailored to specific needs, contribute to building a culture of resilience and well-being within organisations.

Mentally Fit’s impressive client roster boasts well-known names like Nedbank, Colgate Palmolive, Cipla, Old Mutual MTN, BMW, Nando’s and Radisson, a testament to their effectiveness across various sectors. Their focus on the critical balance between delivery and recovery through self-care, people-care, and team-care resonated deeply with clients. 

Thompson himself, drawing upon an extensive list of experiences, delivered impactful keynotes for several companies like Total Energies, DHL and Tiger Brands, using real-life anecdotes as the central aspect of corporate well-being programs.

Mentally Fit extends its global reach across Western and Eastern Europe, South-East Asia, Latin America, North America. Africa and Australia. Their practical solutions for managing stress, promoting excellence, and building resilience to improve team and individual performance under pressure are highly sought-after by organisations navigating the ever-evolving corporate climate.

James Thompson’s journey captures the integration of athletic excellence into the demands of the business world. It’s a testament to adaptation, resilience, and the relentless pursuit of excellence, inspiring individuals and organisations alike to strive for their own “gold medals” in their careers. DM



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