I enjoy watching the Olympics. Thinking of all of the hours of training and hard work that the athletes have put in over the last four years inspires me to do better things. I realize that the things that I strive to accomplish pale in comparison to the time, sweat and tears that these athletes have sacrificed to represent their countries. Some of these athletes have easier roads to travel to the Olympics than others. Several athletes competing in London have amazing stories behind all of the glitz and glamour that the games bring. I wanted to share a few of those that caught my eye.
As a cyclist, I was mesmerized by the women’s cycling events in London. Kristin Armstrong represented the United States in the women’s road race and individual time trial. I actually raced against Kristin Armstrong in the Elite Nationals Road Race in Augusta last year. Pretty cool, huh?
Kristin Armstrong was a distance runner in college and then became a triathlete. She was diagnosed with osteoarthritis in both hips in 2001, at age 27, and told that she could no longer run at an elite level. She then decided to focus on cycling exclusively. At the 2008 Summer Olympics in China, Armstrong completed the biggest achievement of her career when she won the gold medal in the women’s road time trial competition. She beat the silver medalist by 25 seconds, a large margin at such an elite level. Armstrong temporarily retired in 2009 to begin a family. In 2010, she returned to the sport with hopes of making the 2012 Olympic team.
Kristin’s plans were right on track to race for another Olympic gold until May 2012. While competing in her hometown of Boise, Idaho, at the Exergy Tour, Kristin crashed in the time trial and broke her collarbone. She had surgery immediately after her crash to repair her collarbone. Two months later, Kristin successfully defended her Olympic title in the women’s time trial and become the oldest Olympic rider to win a time trial. Two months after breaking her collarbone!
Oscar Pistorius also made a name for himself in London. Who hasn’t heard of the “fastest man on no legs”? Pistorius made history by representing South Africa in the men’s 400 meter run. Oscar has a double below-knee amputation. He runs with the help of Cheetah Flex-Foot carbon fiber limbs. This is a truly amazing story to me.
Oscar was born with no fibula in either leg and had both legs amputated between the knee and ankle when he was 11 months old. Growing up, he also played rugby, water polo and tennis. After injuring his knee in rugby, he turned to running and the rest is history. His motto is “You’re not disabled by the disabilities you have, you are able by the abilities you have.” Some argue that he is at an advantage with the carbon fiber legs. I don’t agree.
Another track and field athlete, Kellie Wells, also has an inspirational story. After having to be carried off the track in 2008 after suffering a torn hamstring at the U.S. Olympic trials and then suffering a broken arm in February 2012, Wells rebounded in 2012 to earn the bronze medal in the women’s 100 meter hurdles.
But Kellie’s story goes beyond torn hamstrings and broken arms. Kellie was raped by her abusive stepfather when she was 16 years old. Only weeks later, her mother and stepfather were both killed in an automobile accident. Kellie focused her attention on running, using long practices and intense workouts as an escape from her past. She has been very open about her story in hopes that she will inspire young girls to never give up on their goals.
Carrie Johnson. The name is not as well-known as some of the others that I’ve mentioned today. Carrie Johnson is an Olympic kayaker who will be representing the United States in London. She also represented the United States in Athens and Beijing and made it to the semifinals in both years ... while battling Crohn’s disease.
In January 2003, Carrie was diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease, a chronic intestinal disorder. Her diagnosis did not slow her down. Carrie simply followed her doctor’s instructions by taking the proper medications and following a strict diet. As I sit on my couch typing this article, Carrie has not competed in her kayak event, but I will be sure to follow the kayak events now to see how she does.
These athletes should inspire us all to do bigger and better things in our everyday life ... run a little farther, pedal a little faster, eat a little healthier. These Olympians have trained through injuries, disease and tragedy. When you hear stories like these, it makes those excuses that you’ve used for not going to the gym seem pretty pathetic. Get off that couch and get moving. I think Oscar Pistorius said it best, “You’re not disabled by the disabilities you have, you are able by the abilities you have.”
God gave us each individual talent and abilities. Make the most of them. Quit making excuses. Today is the first day of the rest of your life. Take these stories and use them to find the Olympic athlete in yourself.
Michele Moulton has been a fitness instructor for more than 21 years and is a certified Spinning instructor. She teaches at PT Gym and is an avid cyclist. She is an accountant and a mother of two boys, Austin and Harrison.