As the Olympics continue, we are exposed to more stories about these athletes. It is easy to be just blown away by a runner who competes as a double amputee against the able-bodied athletes in the 400m. That is amazing. As a runner, the 400 is brutal. It requires the speed of a sprinter, but some of that endurance that the longer distance athletes have. It is by far one of the more painful distances to run. You have to push yourself well beyond your comfort range to do it well. Here is Pistorius doing it on his Cheetah prosthetic limbs. Truly mind-boggling. One of the quieter stories to be told at these games is the path Kayla Harrison took to get to London. This Judo athlete started training at 8. By the time she was 13 her coach was sexually abusing her. This abuse continued until she was 16. She told another athlete who contacted her mother. But it didn’t end there. She had to testify against this coach and put him away. Her family made the decision to move to Boston so she could train with one of the best coaches in the country. This coach and his father slowly rebuilt Kayla’s confidence, and helped her battle back from suicidal depression. They made sure she got the therapy she needed, and the support within careful boundaries. She came back from that abuse. All the way back to stand atop the podium to receive a gold medal. It is a story of courage, and struggle. But most of all it is a story about recovery with good support and care. Most people will never hear that story, nor the story of the cyclist from the US that battled back from anorexia. She was originally a model. She fell into the depths of a severe eating disorder. Part of her recovery involved her therapist requiring her to do something she had never done before. Trying to carefully avoid any of the extreme exercising she had abused in the past. She chose indoor cycling. Go figure, she happened to be exceptional at it. It isn’t often that a person can pick up a sport like that as an adult and excel. I haven’t followed whether she competed well, but the fact that she cheated death and found a place to recover. That recovery brought her all the way to London.
Most people easily look at the runner and think of how amazing he is. I agree, don’t get me wrong. But I think these other athletes I have talked about are just as exceptional.