Advance Performance | Five Life Lessons from Inspiring Olympians
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Five Life Lessons from Inspiring Olympians

Five Life Lessons from Inspiring Olympians

Every champion, in fact every competitor, has their own inspiring story to tell of their journey to the Games. The following athletes are inspirational in their own way providing valuable life lessons for us all.

Jesse and Luz


The Power of Visualisation in Preparing to Achieve Your Goal

Michael Phelps is arguably the Greatest Olympian of all by his medal collection. He is renowned for his preparation before every race. In 2008 when he won his signature event the 200m Butterfly by just 0.67 seconds, he showed why every athlete should prepare for every eventuality. Phelps practises visualisation as an integral part of his routine. He practised with different scenarios so he is absolutely prepared – and he had even visualised swimming his races “blind” learning to count the exact strokes needed to the wall. During his 200m Butterfly race, as he dived in his goggles filled with water as they were faulty. Phelps had to swim the race “blind” as he had to keep his eyes closed. He visualised and counted his strokes as he had practised and he was Olympic Champion again.

Saving Lives of Other Competitors

Lawrence Lemieux, a Canadian sailor, was competing in the Finn Class in the 1988 Olympics and was in second place within the overall standings. During the fifth race the wind suddenly picked up and two Singaporean sailors were thrown overboard and injured. When Lemieux spotted the shipwreck he diverted his course and abandoned his position to rescue the two sailors. He pulled them from the water and waited for the patrol boat to take them to shore before he returned to the race now finishing in 22nd place. As a result, the International Yacht Racing Union awarded him an honorary 2nd place, and he was awarded the Pierre de Coubertin Medal for Sportsmanship by the International Olympics Committee. The IOC President Juan Antonio Samaranch said: “By your sportsmanship, self-sacrifice and courage, you embody all that is right with the Olympic ideal.

The Perseverance to Finish the Racee 

In 1988, the track athlete Derek Redmond missed the Olympics due to an Achilles injury. He was determined to race in the 1992 Olympics, and promised his father Jim that despite injuries would finish the race whatever happened. During his semi final, Derek felt his hamstring pop and he collapsed in tears. But as the other athletes left him behind, Derek was determined to complete his goal and he got up and hobbled towards the finishing line. His father Jim ran down from his seat and helped his son along to the end of his race – to a standing ovation from the crowd for Derek’s plucky determination.

Beating the Odds of Illness and Injury

In 2012, Kieran Behan became the 2nd Irish gymnast to qualify for the competition. He had beaten a severe illness twice and an injury to reach the London Olympics. At ten years old he had a benign tumour removed from his leg, and was told he would be confined to a wheelchair. Determined to defy their diagnosis, Kieran learned to walk again. Just two years later he suffered from a head injury and ended up in a wheelchair again. It took three years in rehab to learn to walk and run, and he was determined to pursue his gymnastics training. However, in 2010, shortly after returning from rehab, he suffered the same injury in his left knee. But Kieran was determined to achieve his gymnastics goals, and he did compete at the London Olympics in 2012. After beating odds like this, he was a true winner even though he was unplaced.

A courageous handshake

Jesse Owens is the inspirational hero of the 1936 Olympics in Berlin. He defied Hitler’s Aryan beliefs of superiority and competed on the track, winning four Gold Medals. The first person to congratulate Owens and shake his hand was the courageous German athlete Luz Long who had advised Owens to race in full view of the Fuhrer. Owens recognised Long’s bravery ins standing against a whole regime by openly shaking his hand and posing for photographs. He said: “You can melt down all the medals and cups I have and they wouldn’t be a plating on the twenty-four carat friendship that I felt for Luz Long at that moment.

Although not all of these athletes were Olympic Gold Medallists they each became an inspiration through their actions which fit with the Olympics values of inspiration, determination, excellence, equality, friendship, respect and courage.

As we follow the athletes competing towards achieving their dreams in the Rio Olympic Games, we shall be able to share many more inspiring stories. Join in the celebrations and be inspired to start working on your own goal, to pursue your dream! Have the courage and determination to beat the odds to succeed. You can do it! You can be the best version of you in your life!