August 18, 2016
The last several weeks our country/our world has been spectators to magnificent examples of how the human body can function. As we sit back in our easy chairs watching the Olympics, we marvel at the athletes! They make their performances look so effortless and beautiful. It is easy to forget that they are indeed ‘normal’ human beings just like us. While their physical stamina is the result of hard work and determination, many also have personal stories that add an additional level of respect and courage for their accomplishments. Below are some examples as gathered from Fox News:
American gymnast Simone Biles is undoubtedly the shining star of Rio 2016.
A newcomer to the Olympics, she’s so far ahead of her competition that other gymnasts joked that the real contest was to see who placed second. But her life hasn’t been easy.
Her biological mother struggled with serious drug and alcohol abuse, and when Simone was just five she was taken into care. Simone and her sister Adria, who was three at the time, stayed in a foster home in Ohio waiting to be adopted – until her biological grandparents, Ron and Nellie, found out what had happened and decided to adopt the girls themselves. It was while living with her new parents that Simone’s talent began to flourish – and she would be on her way to becoming one of the greatest gymnasts of our time.
Yusra Mardini is the face of the Olympics’ first ever team of refugees. She had a budding swimming career in her home city of Damascus, but when the civil war started her pool was bombed and life was increasingly perilous. Her family realised that they had to flee. And her incredible swimming talents ended up saving both her life and those of around 20 other people, when her dinghy broke down in the Mediterranean.
Yusra, her sister Sarah and two other swimmers ended up pulling the dinghy to shore by grabbing onto its rope and swimming to land.
Zahra Nemati originally planned to compete in taekwondo – a martial art she excelled in.
But then, when she was 18, she was hit by a car. The accident shattered her spine and she was paralyzed from the waist-down. This didn’t stop her Olympic dreams though. Zahra, who is now wheelchair-bound, re-trained in archery – and is so good that she’s qualified to compete in both the Paralympics and the Olympics, against able-bodied athletes. She’s already broken records. In London’s 2012 Paralympics, she became the first Iranian woman to win a gold medal in either the Olympics or the Paralympics. Zahra was also chosen to be the flag-bearer for Iran at the opening ceremony – proudly leading out a team dominated by men.
Along with Jack Laugher, Chris Mears won Britain’s first ever gold medal in diving. But just seven years ago things didn’t look so promising for Chris. He contracted the life-threatening Epstein Barr virus, and was given just a 5% chance of survival. In 2009 the diver suffered a ruptured spleen and collapsed, losing five pints of blood. He stayed in hospital for a month, and had to have his spleen removed. He made a full recovery and returned to the Games in 2010, finishing fourth in the synchro at the Commonwealth Games.
South Sudanese-American Lopez Lomong was one of thousands of child refugees caught up in the country’s horrific civil war. He was one of the Lost Boys of Sudan – a group of more than 20,000 boys of the Nuer and Dinka ethnic groups who were displaced or orphaned during the war. Lopez was abducted at the age of six while attending Catholic Mass, and was assumed dead by his family. He almost died in captivity, but other people from his village helped him escape. He sought refuge in the US in 2001, and became a naturalized citizen in 2007.
For many years he assumed his parents had been killed by the Sudan People’s Liberation Army, but in 2003 he was reunited with his parents.
And I would add to this list the story of Michael Phelps and his successful efforts to reboot his life after struggling with personal issues. If you have not seen his post-Olympic Under Armor ad, click on this link….an inspiring way to end this E-Redeemer post that even includes a theological undertone: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xh9jAD1ofm4