I don't know about you, but I love the Olympics! I love the national pride, the sportsmanship, the love and friendship you see between nations, and of course the awe inspiring athletic ability of these amazing athletes. I watch all of these overly talented people who do crazy things with their bodies and I can't help but think "what am I doing with my life? I'm so lame!" But even though I can't spin on ice with my knee touching my nose I have my own strengths. And even though I'll never be able to do a flip, whether on a snowboard or on a balance beam, that doesn't mean I can't take and/or teach lessons learned from the lives of these amazing Olympic athletes. These Olympic athletes are great role models for children and adults alike.
Missy Franklin was born in 1995 and is a dual citizen of Canada and America. Franklin has been swimming since she was 5 years old. She competed in her first international event when she was 14 years old and competed in the Olympics just 3 years later. Missy competed in 7 Olympic events in 2012, which is more than any other U.S. female swimmer in history.
Missy currently holds the world record in the 200-meter backstroke and various American records. Missy attended the 2012 Summer Olympics at the age of 17 and won 5 medals (4 gold & 1 bronze). While most successful Olympic athletes accept sponsors, endorsements, and prize money Missy doesn’t accept any of it. She loves competitive swimming so much she refuses payment in order to keep her “amateur” status in college so she can swim for UC Berkeley.
Jesse Owens was the 10th of 10 children. As a young child he worked various jobs to support his family. He discovered that he loved to run but because he worked in his spare time he couldn’t attend track practice at his junior high. Jesse’s coach, Charles Riley, and who Jesse attributes his success to, allowed Jesse to practice before school instead of after. When Jesse was in high school he ran the 100-yard dash and long-jumped the same time and length of the world records of the time (9.4 seconds and 24’ 9.5” respectively).
Jesse competed in the 1936 Summer Olympics which were held in the “resurgent Nazi Germany”. Nazi propaganda promoted “Aryan racial superiority” which showed African Americans as inferior to their white teammates. Jesse Owens set the world record in long jump, which stood unbeaten for 25 years. Despite the racial perceptions that were against him both in Germany and America at the time, Jesse was the most successful athlete at the 1936 Summer Olympics after winning four gold medals.
Started competing as a gymnast when she was 8. When she was 13 she joined the US National Team and won a team bronze medal at the Barcelona Olympics when she was 14. She trained constantly during her teenage years in order to qualify for the 1996 Olympics. She made the team and was able to compete in her two strongest events- floor exercise and vault.
In 1996 the Russians had been the dominating team in gymnastics for decades and had never been won by the US. During the vault the US was in the lead but the Russians could easily have taken over the lead and won the gold again. During Kerri’s first vault she landed incorrectly which injured her ankle and because of the event and order in which she was vaulting she had to perform a second vault and land it in order for the US to win gold. Kerri successfully landed her second vault which guaranteed her team the gold medal. She was unable to walk to the podium to receive her medal and was carried by her coach. Because of her amazing performance through her serious injury she was a national sports hero.
Wilma Rudolph was born in 1940 as the 20th child of 22. At the age of 4 Wilma got polio which caused infantile paralysis. She recovered but had to wear a brace on her left leg and foot until the age of 9 and then an orthopedic shoe for 2 more years. As a child Wilma also survived scarlet fever.
Despite her illnesses and handicaps of her childhood, Wilma was a natural athlete. Wilma played basketball and ran track for her high school and attended her first Olympic games in 1956 and won a bronze medal. At the 1960 Summer Olympics in Rome, Wilma sprained her ankle during practice, but ran through the pain and during all of her races. At the 1960 Olympics in Rome Wilma won 3 Olympic gold medals and was considered internationally to be the fasted woman in the world. Wilma’s success promoted women’s track and also civil rights back in a racially divided America.
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