“The Will to Win” Gives Helen Moody Greatest Triumph

Damon Runyon

Reading Times/July 10, 1935

“The will to win” has long been recognized by sports observers as fully 50 percent of the competitive game.

“The will to win,” highly developed in an individual or a team, will frequently overwhelm much greater strength and skill.

“The will to win” is mental, entirely mental. It is a far better asset than the purely physical, than the purely mechanical. “The will to win” is courage, perseverance, determination.

It is the thing that in a prize fight keeps a man getting up off the floor time and again, and plugging along; that, in a football game, causes a team to disregard a big score against it and to continue pounding.

“The will to win” has produced more spectacular victories in war than force of numbers, or military genius. “The will to win” in war carries to triumph the forlorn-hope charge. It holds desperate positions.

In sport, “the will to win” is what makes our greatest champions. It is true that a person may occasionally become a champion through sheer physical or mechanical superiority, without much of “the will to win,” but that person is never a great champion, never a Ty Cobb, a Babe Ruth, a Jack Dempsey, a Man O’ War.

Yes, even a horse can have “the will to win,” as anyone that ever saw Man O’ War will tell you. He refused to be beaten.

BUT it has taken a frail-looking woman to give us our finest exemplification of “the will to win.” It has taken Mrs. Helen Wills Moody, whose exploit at Wimbledon in defeating Helen Jacobs will undoubtedly be written into history at the close of 1935 as the highlight of sport for the year, if not of all time.

We have always thought that women develop “the will to win” to a greater extent than men, anyway. They do it in everyday life. A woman always battles more bravely against adversity than a man. A woman sees no obstacle too great to overcome. Barriers that cause a man to sit down and fold his hands, to “dog it,” as we say, only make a woman fight all the harder.

That is because they have more natural mental courage to begin with. The greatest prizefighter the world has ever seen would be a man gifted with Max Baer’s physical attainments, and “the will to win” of Helen Wills Moody, the tennis player.

Two years ago, at Forest Hills, Mrs. Moody, after dropping the first set to Helen Jacobs, and while she was trailing in the second, suddenly walked off the court, passing her championship on to Miss Jacobs by default, one of the most astounding incidents in sporting history.

IT was explained that Mrs. Moody was suffering from a spinal injury, that she was physically unable to go on, but this explanation was accepted by the skeptics with knowing smiles.

Presently they began whispering that this lady, whose natural diffidence in her many moments of victory had been construed by some as hauteur, as “swell-headedness,” was a quitter. They were only too ready to disbelieve the stories of those who really knew that she had spent many hours before the incident at Forest Hills in bitter physical pain.

From Mrs. Moody herself came no defense to the whisperings that eventually swelled to a vicious outcry. She had a dislocated spine, a fact well known to her physicians, and her friends, and the wonder among them was that she had been able to play as well as she did, but Mrs. Moody declined to elaborate on the statement of her injury, declined to pay any attention to her detractors.

She went back home to California, and for two years she devoted herself to getting well, perhaps always dreaming of the moment when she could demonstrate to the world that she had been cruelly misjudged. The moment came at Wimbledon, when she was within one point of defeat, and “the will to win” drove her on, and on to the sweetest victory of her lifetime, fraught with many victories.

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