Sometimes I stop and think about people who have really struggled in their profession, sport or just in life in general. My mind wanders to those individuals who have withstood tremendous hardships only to overcome their condition in ways never thought imaginable. One of those individuals that always comes to mind is Wilma Rudolph.
I remember learning about Wilma when I was in grade school and being totally amazed. As a child, a bout of Polio caused her left leg to be deformed and crooked. Born in the segregated south, she didn’t have access to the best healthcare. Her family recruited doctors from all over the region and drove great distances to rehabilitate her leg. Despite all this, she went on to win 3 gold medals.
Seriously, we’re talking about a real life Forrest Gump. It wasn’t until she was 12 that she was actually able to walk properly without a brace. What’s really mind-blowing is that 4 years later, at the age of 16, Wilma earned a spot on the 1956 Olympic women’s 4x100m team where she earned a bronze medal. By the age of 20, Wilma was the fastest woman in the world, setting Olympic records and winning 3 gold medals in the 100m, 200m and 4x100m relay.
Take a step back and let that marinate for a minute….
Now consider the single most important factor that makes an athlete or determines his/her success. Is it more hours training? If we used Wilma as a barometer for success, the answer would prob be no. Is it raw talent? Maybe. But then again, we all know athletes that may not seem to have “amazing” talent but are very successful. Consider this one…could it be their outlook? Could it be their perspective? Could it be their attitude??
One thing I know for sure; the mind is the athlete. Wilma was the 20th of 21 children in her family. She was constantly surrounded by brothers and sisters who cheered her on everyday, telling her to be strong, encouraging and supporting her…just to walk. When she was finally able to walk w/o a brace at 12, it was a miracle. I bet Wilma thought to herself, “Well, if I can overcome a disability like Polio, what else can I do??!!” Just by asking that question, Wilma put herself in a place of infinite possiblity. She not only went on to be a super-star, she was a major player in the civil rights movement and most importantly earned a spot in every little boy or girl’s heart that was ever diagnosed with Polio.
Wilma’s past successes, built day by day and sometimes literally step by step, coupled with her bright attitude, faith and positive outlook on life, enabled her to become one of the best athletes the world has ever seen in a very short amount of time. The word that comes to mind is UNSTOPPABLE-NESS.
I know Wilma holds a special place in my heart. Her indomitable spirit is something that I will always admire. The next time those little words “I can’t” come in to your mind, just think of what Wilma Rudolph would say. Most likely, “If I can, you can!”
Never Let It Rest,