John Carlin: Nelson Mandela and Rafael Nadal had discipline, ambition in common

Photo via
Photo via

December 5, 2013 will go down in history as the day that Nelson Mandela passed away. The 95 year-old statesman, who leaves behind a legacy of courage, peace, and perseverance, was unparalleled in his strife for humanity and his fight to end apartheid, but did share something with our own Rafael Nadal.  John Carlin, the co-author of Rafael Nadal’s autobiography, also penned that of Nelson Mandela’s. This article, an interview with Carlin, was published in Marca in 2011.

MARCA: You wrote the biography of Nelson Mandela and [also] of Rafael Nadal. What are the parallels between these two figures?

JOHN CARLIN: “There are more things that divide them than unite them, but they are two globally known characters who have achieved excellence in their respective fields and have shown tremendous discipline, ambition, rigor and energy that they have invested in achieving their goals. In both books there is also a clearly outstanding epic sports moment, which in the case of Rafa’s is the Wimbledon final in 2008 against Roger Federer. It can be said that there are certain connections between these two characters.”

Mandela was an ardent supporter of sports and saw it as a way to unify people. Rafa follows that very principle in his foundation, where he uses sports to help integrate marginalized and discriminated children and teens. Rafa tweeted his condolences earlier in the day.

“Do not judge me by my successes, judge me by how many times I fell down and got back up again.” Rest in peace, Nelson Mandela. We were fortunate to have lived in your time.

You can read the entire interview, about Carlin’s experience with Rafa, here. (in Spanish)


  1. I love Rafael Nadal but in a different way to Nelson Mandela ,Rafael was born into an educated abundant family and if he had never found his prowess as an immense tennis player ,he would never have suffered the isolation and the abuse and imprisonment that Nelson Mandela endured who kept his ideals intact ,and went on to win the admiration of the people who oppressed him , the only thing they shared was a unique humility. It is ridiculous to compare them

Leave a Reply