Just think of a few of the challenges athletes face. They may have to cope with exhausting training schedules, lost matches, injuries, missed milestones, heartbreaking failures, and personal adversity. If they are female they may have to face health problems related to irregular eating habits and menstruation which in turn can aggravate bone loss. Here are stories of 5 athletes who faced enormous challenges and refused to be beaten. If these stories fail to motivate you, then I do not know what will!
1. Kieran Behan, gymnast.
Imagine being told that you will never walk again! That was what doctors told Kieran after they removed a cancerous tumor from his thigh at the age of 10. The operation went badly, so badly in fact, that he woke up screaming in pain from massive nerve damage. Up to then, he had been crazy about gymnastics and was determined to become an Olympic champion. But how could he do that when he could not even walk now and was confined to a wheelchair?
Kieran was going to show them and he started on the long road to recovery. He was 15 months in a wheelchair but he persevered and was back in the gym. But within a few a months he slipped from the high bar and sustained a terrible head injury. He was so badly injured that frequent blackouts happened when he literally blinked. He missed a whole year at school but the gym was beckoning again. This time though, he had to overcome the challenges of that awful injury. He had to retrain his brain and get back his co-ordination. He returned to school using a walking stick and was cruelly taunted by his classmates.
It then took him three years to get back to where he had been before the awful accident. But he suffered several fractures. Then another blow came when his knee snapped just after he had been selected for the European Championships. Behan has said that was when he was about to give up.
But he never gave up and succeeded in becoming the Challenge World Cup floor champion.in 2011, and his greatest moment of glory was when he qualified for the London 2012 Olympics. He had become an Olympic athlete after being through terrible pain, trauma and setbacks. A glorious example of the Olympic spirit.
2. Michael Jordan, basketball player.
“When you’re in a rhythm during the season, you’re going to fail seven out of 10 times,”- Mark Texeira, Yankees
Michael Jordan has been praised to the skies and is often referred to as the best basketball player of all time. He attributes his success to his many failures because he has claimed they made him try even harder. They certainly did not discourage him. When he was very young, he was not even thought to have a great talent. He was cut from the high school basketball team. He has actually counted his failures and they include 300 lost games and he has missed taking the game winning shot 26 times. Most champions are discouraged and unmotivated by failures but Michael Jordan had the right attitude and regarded them as the recipe for his success.
“I know that fear is an obstacle for some people, but for me it is just an illusion….. Failure always makes me try harder on the next opportunity.”- Michael Jordan.
3. Bethany Hamilton, surfer.
Bethany Hamilton grew up in Hawaii so it is not surprising to learn that by the age of 7, she was already able to surf waves. In 2003, a terrible tragedy struck when a shark bit off her left arm. As she recovered, she made two promises to herself. The first was that she would not moan about her terrible misfortune and the second was that she would get back on the surfboard. Another person would have been resigned to failure. But not Bethany Hamilton. After only 26 days, she was surfing again! She is now ranked as among the top 50 female surfers in the world. She also won first prize in the Explorer Women’s Division of the NSSA National Championships.
She overcame many obstacles before becoming successful as a one armed surfer. She had moments of sheer frustration when adjusting to her disability. The accident was instrumental in helping her overcome difficult moments but above all taught her how to defeat her fear in scary moments. She has dedicated much of her life to being a role model for young amputees. She has become an inspiration for many girls going through amputation and adolescence through her Friends of Bethany charity. AnnaSofia Robb and Dennis Quaid have starred in the film Soul Surfer (2011) which was inspired by Bethany’s amazing story.
4. Muhammad Ali, boxer.
“He who is not courageous enough to take risks will accomplish nothing in life.” – Muhammad Ali
Regarded as the greatest boxer of all time, Muhammad Ali won many wards such as the Golden Glove and an Olympic Gold medal at the 1960 games in Rome. He has inspired many people by his career and his way of life. After retiring from the ring, he devoted his life to philanthropy and charities, especially those connected with Parkinson’s disease from which he suffered. Muhammad Ali was no stranger to risk. From the early age of 12 when someone stole his bike, he was determined to take on any future thieves, so he learned how to fight.
Many athletes go through a very difficult process of coping with perfectionism and their fear of failure. This often prevents them from reaching their full potential. Anything less than perfection and winning is counted as failure. What athletes do not want to happen often does because they are haunted by fear of making mistakes. This mindset results in more tension, indecision and being too careful. Muhammad Ali was a superb example of taking calculated risks and has remained an inspiration for many generations.
5. Michael Phelps, swimmer.
Michael Phelps is considered the greatest Olympian swimmer of all time. Everyone thought that no swimmer would be able to win 8 gold medals in just one Olympic Games. Michael did just that and he has 19 Olympic medals, 15 of which are gold! The remarkable thing about him is that as a child he suffered from ADHD and was on medication for some of that time. Most people assume that people with ADHD suffer from restlessness, impulsiveness and a very short attention span. But they also have an incredible capacity to remain hyperfocused on an activity they are passionate about. Michael has been able to use this with enormous success. By channelling his energy and focus, he has been able to exploit the positive side of ADHD.
Phelps has shown that he can beat the most disciplined and strongest swimmers in the world and is an inspiring example to anyone who suffers from a mental disorder or other disability. He has another secret in that he uses the power of visualizing success before he starts any swim. He started this process when he was only 7 years old. He realized there were no limits to success and once you are passionate about your objective, nothing can stop you.
“Nobody is going to put a limit on what I’m doing. I’m going to do what I want to do, when I want to do it. That is how I have always worked. If I want something I am going to go and get it.”- Michael Phelps.
If you feel exhausted or discouraged after your next marathon, just think about one of these inspiring champions before you actually give up!
Featured photo credit: Balance (Improved? or not…)/Ricardo Liberato via flickr.com