Olympians Overcoming Adversity

The 2012 London Summer Olympics will allow the entire world to put their differences aside and compete for dominance in athletic competition. Everyone will get the chance to see a glimpse of a united world. Under this contradictory guise of peace and fierce competition, many people do not understand the lengths these athletes have to go through to compete on the world’s grandest stage of competition. On top of training for hours nearly every  day, many Olympians have gone through mountains of adversity to achieve their athletic success. Culture, poverty, physical disability and even war are some of the large obstacles these athletes sometimes battle against. The following are some amazing stories of triumph that stand as a testament to the God-inspired tenacity of the human spirit.

Lolo Jones
60m and 100m hurdling specialist Lolo Jones has gone through a range of trials to reach this point in her career. In the third grade, her family had to live in a Des Moines Salvation Army church’s basement. According to the Des Moines Register, while her father spent his days in and out of jail, Jones often worked two jobs as a teenager in order to help support her large, struggling family. Despite her hardships, the 2008 and 2010 World Indoor Champion in 60m hurdles still managed to excel  athletically and academically in her scholastic career. Interestingly, the toughest issue that Jones, a devout Christian, says that she struggles with is her maintaining her virginity. On a recent “Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel “television appearance, Jones said, “Harder than training for the Olympics. Harder than studying for college, has been staying a virgin before marriage,” After suffering a devastating seventh-place finish in the 100m hurdles Beijing in 2008, Jones is determined to go for the gold in the 100m hurdles once again, in what will most likely be the 29-year-old’s final Olympic appearance.

Oscar Pistorius
Double leg-amputee Oscar Pistorius will run for South Africa in the 400 meters and the 4X400 relay. The athlete was chosen by the nation’s Olympic committee to run in both events despite not qualifying for the 400 meters. The 25-year-old is known as the “Blade Runner” because of the carbon fiber blades he runs on in place of his legs, which were amputated when he was just 11 months old. Pistorius was born with congenital absence of the fibula in both legs, meaning that a band of fibers was formed instead of the fibula bone. This often results in deformed legs or feet as well as absent parts of ankle joints. According to USA Today, Pistorius is expected to draw as much attention as superstars Usain Bolt and Michael Phelps But Pistorious is just excited to compete in both events. “To have been selected to represent South Africa at the London 2012 Olympic Games in the individual 400m and the 4X400 relay is a real honor, and I am pleased that years of hard work, determination and sacrifice have all come together,” said Pistorius. Do not think for a second that the South African Olympic committee passed him along just out of pity. The four-time Paralympic gold medal winner earned every right to run with able-bodied athletes after winning a silver medal with South Africa in the 4X400 relay at the 2011 World Championships.

Geeta Phogat
During the 2000 Sydney Olympics 11-year old Geeta Phogat and her father Mahavir Singh, watched the games from their small village in Haryana, India. Phogat drew heavy inspiration from watching weightlifter Karnam Malleshwar become the first Indian woman to ever win an Olympic medal. As a local wrestler, Singh felt compelled to teach Phogat and her four other siblings about wrestling and to start a wrestling arena. Now  a 23-year-old Olympic wrestler, Phogat realizes the extent to which Malleshwar paved the way for female Indian Olympians to flourish. “Before Malleshwari won, we never thought a woman could achieve so much,” she said. Being a pioneer for female athletes in a country where female feticide and gender biases towards men are culturally acceptable does not come without its challenges. Negative rumors and gossip formed about her in her village because she was seen as a girl playing a man’s game. The Times of India reports that Phogat recounts boys forfeiting before matches against her because of the shame that losing to a girl would bring upon them. The young pioneer has already started paving a path for Indian female wrestlers. As the first female Indian wrestler to win a gold medal in the 55kg freestyle category at the Commonwealth Games in 2010, Phogat now dreams of becoming the first female Indian wrestler to win an Olympic medal. Fortunately, Phogat’s success has started to change the perception in her village of women being more than just housewives. According to India Today, Phogat claims, “Now there is more acceptance. People in our village also take pride in our achievements.” Phogat will compete in the 55kg women’s wrestling freestyle event in London.

Lopez Lomong
Kidnapped from Catholic Mass as a six-year-old in his village of Kimotong, Sudan in 1991, Lopez Lomong was feared dead and buried in absentia by his family. Lomong was held for three weeks as a captive of the Second Sudanese Civil War, a conflict that many call a racial war between the Arabs in the government and the Blacks in southern Sudan. After watching many other boys die in the camp from disease and starvation, Lomong and three teenage boys found an escape route out of the camp and ran away. After fleeing for several days, the four boys eventually reached the Kenyan border and Lomong was taken to a Kenyan refugee camp by border patrol. Ten years later, the then 16-year-old Lomong learned from missionaries that 3,500 residents from that Kenyan refugee camp would be taken to America. As one of the 3,500 who came, Lomong ended up starting his track career at Tully High School in New York as a tenth grader in 2001. Soon he blazed a trail of success throughout school, enjoying his best scholastic year in 2007 at Northern Arizona University as the champion of the NCAA Outdoor 1,500m race and NCAA Indoor 3,000m race. The 27-year old 2009 and 2010 1500m USA Outdoor Champion also set 2012’s best time for the 5k race by finishing in 13 minutes and 11.63 seconds. The former “Lost Boy of Sudan,” a name given to at least 20,000 boys who had become separated from their families during the Second Sudanese Civil War, still has a burden for Sudan. His website states that he wants nothing but peace for his war-torn nation and that he wishes to raise awareness of Sudan’s struggles and build a community center there to provide hope for his countrymen. The bearer of the American flag in the 2008 Olympics will compete in the 5k in London.

Just like these world-class athletes, everyone has gone through and will continue to enter rough patches in their lives, whether they are financial, physical, spiritual, or circumstantial. God knows exactly what each person endures, and by trusting Him believers have the opportunity to come out of each rough patch better off spiritually than they were before. God does not abandon people who put their faith Him during hard times. He will lift up and bless the people who struggle and still put God first. As the Bible declares, “God blesses those who patiently endure testing and temptation. Afterwards they will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love Him” (James 1:12).

Jonathan Ebanks :

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  • A truly inspired article that is an enlighted perspective into the lives of our favorite athletes was a refreshing experience