Feeling the joy and passion of an Olympic event is something I haven’t experienced. Enduring years of relentless pain and struggle, only to be blown away by the competition is something I won’t have to face. But, I have met some great Olympians. I met these Olympians this past summer in Kansas City at a conference for the leaders of tomorrow. The air was stifling, thick and sticky as honey. Under normal circumstances, I would’ve escaped the heat, but today I barely felt it. I knew why I was there and I was excited!
These Olympians went through even tougher rings than most ever face to get to where they are today. Their struggles had nothing to do with long hard practices or “2-a-days.” Their’s had to do with medication, physical therapy, and counseling.
The athletes arrived with their teams from all over the country. They paraded in and bared big smiles and hearty laughter. I cheered and cheered, even though I had no idea who these Olympians were. I was paired with a woman and her niece who shared the same mental disability. The aunt had not smiled at me all morning. Not once did she smile at the starting line of her 100-yard dash, but as soon as that whistle went off, she couldn’t stop smiling. This smile blinded her from the fact that she was the only one still running, although everyone else was finished. She pushed all the way to the finish line where tears were shed and congratulations exchanged.
I believe in perseverance. Not once did I see one of these Olympians give up and say, “No I won’t continue!” They finished every race with their hearts full of joy and were completely consumed in the moment. I myself am an athlete. I’ve given up on some of my dreams, because the victory seemed too far out of reach. I’ve cried when things seemed too hard. I’ve laughed at others when they thought they could and they couldn’t. I learned this summer that no matter who you are, what you look like, or where you come from, you can achieve anything that you put your mind to. I decided to live my every day up to the expectations of the special Olympians. They don’t know when their next Olympic event will be, and I will continue to win every race in my life in their spirit.
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