Five Olympic Athletes Who Beat the Odds

Lolo Jones  Via Wikimedia Commons, courtesy of Eric van Leeuwen

Lolo Jones
Via Wikimedia Commons, courtesy of Eric van Leeuwen

The 2014 Winter Olympics are going full force and the world is waiting for new Olympians to break world records. Or maybe I should say, for Norway to stop winning so many friggin’ medals… Must be something in the Fjords that turn out so many good athletes. (No, Fjords are not Norwegian cars. They’re valleys filled with ocean water.)  No matter what country the competitors are from, it’s amazing to watch these athletes do the “impossible” over and over. Speaking of beating the odds, here are five Olympians who are especially amazing. If these guys can overcome all their obstacles, all of us should have no problem getting our butts off the couch and head to the gym, right? P. S. Summer will be here before you know it, so get going!

1. Lolo Jones–Track and Field/Bobsled Athlete. To say that the beautiful Ms. Jones, 31, had a tough beginning is an understatement. One of six siblings, she was raised by a single mother who held down several jobs to provide for her many kids. Times were so tough that, for years, the family was forced to live in the basement of a church they were so poor. Lolo attended eight different schools in eight years only to finally have to part with her family in order to pursue her dream of becoming an athlete, essentially living with foster families until college. But her determination to succeed paid off and she’s now the proud holder of three gold-medals. (Source) Personally, I think the fact that she’s part Norwegian has something to do with this:)

Jesse Owens during the Berlin 1936 Olympics

Jesse Owens during the 1936 Berlin Olympics

2. Jesse Owens–Four-time Olympic Gold Medalist. Often regarded as the most inspiring athlete of all times, this track and field Olympian was a frail child who struggled with chronic bronchial congestion and pneumonia. Even so, he was expected to work to help put food on the table, carrying 100 pounds of cotton every day. (Source) Overcoming his physical difficulties, he discovered he was a great sprinter, winning every local race. This took him to compete in the 1936 Berlin Olympics where he faced not only much tougher competition, but also extreme racial bias served by none other than Hitler and his cohorts. I’m sure we can all imagine how stressful that must have been… Yet, he persevered and won four gold medals!


3. Kerri Strug–Toughest Gymnast Ever. This amazing woman was the pride of the nation when she helped the U.S. women’s gymnastics team win the gold medal during the Atlanta Olympics despite suffering tremendous pain. Failing her landing during the final rotation of the vault portion of the competition, she suffered a third-degree lateral sprain and tendon damage (for those of you who haven’t gone through this, I can tell you it hurts like hell). Despite her injury, Strug got up and performed the vault again — this time, landing it perfectly. She scored a 9.712 securing the U.S. team’s gold medal. (Source) Think about this next time you can’t motivate yourself to work out because your thigh is a touch sore…

4. Natalie du Toit–Amputated Olympic Swimmer. Ever since du Toit was twelve or thirteen, she had dreamed of competing in the Olympics as a swimmer, representing South Africa. Imagine how crushing it must have been then to have a motor bike accident that destroys your leg to such a degree you must cut it off at the knee. This is exactly what happened to this poor girl at age seventeen. Yet, she didn’t give up her dream of competing in the Olympics as a swimmer. Seven years later, during the 2008 Beijing Olympic games, du Toit became the first female amputee in an able-bodied Olympics, competing in the women’s 10 km race.  (Source) Talk about never giving up! Here’s the poem that kept du Toit going:

The tragedy of life does not lie in not reaching your goals; The tragedy of life lies in not having goals to reach for.

If you want to become an Olympian, it's great if you start as young as possible...

If you want to become an Olympian, it’s great if you start as young as possible…

5. Dara Torres–Aging Olympic Gold Medalist. This swimmer is one of my personal favorite inspirations and whom I like to cite to my clients when they complain they’re too old to do this or that. She qualified for the U.S. Olympic team at age forty-one and a half, making her the oldest swimmer ever to compete in the Olympics. Not only did she qualify, but she took the silver medal in all three races she participated in. She was just 0.01 second after twenty-four-year-old winner Britta Steffen in one of the races. (Source) Considering that the peak age for an Olympic swimmer is in their twenties, her feat is especially impressive. According to Torres herself, age is just a number. I think she’s definitely proved this to be true!

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