Illustration by Sophie Beer

Illustration: Sophie Beer

At the 2018 World Cup, English striker Dele Alli has been wearing the same 'lucky' shin pads he first wore as an 11-year-old. Serena Williams wears the same pair of socks from the beginning to the end of any Grand Slam tournament. Brazilian martial artist Lyoto Machida drinks his own urine to get an edge on his rivals.

For some people, the drive to win, to be the best, inspires some strange behaviour. Why do some of us crave victory more than others? What does it mean to win, and what happens when we shift the goalposts?

For 'Win', we're bringing you writing about striving, sweating, cheating and betting. 

Jane Howard considers changing definitions of fairness in the world of elite sport. Alex McClintock reflects on the psychological manipulation of pokie machines, and Shannon Hick shares a tale of McDonald's workers on their own Olympic journey. And an anonymous reality TV casting producer divulges techniques for finding the perfect heroes and villains.

Plus, there's more on victory and failure from our archives – including features and podcasts on sporting glory, literary prizes and political battles.