Heart of an Olympian

The biggest cool thing I did this month, and a lifetime highlight,  was visiting the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs as part of C3X with NACAS. Here I got to light the Olympic Flame (one of my privileges as the new president of NACAS), was treated to demonstrations in several Olympic sports including judo, fencing, women’s wrestling, men’s boxing, and men’s gymnastics. But the real highlight of the night was meeting several Olympic and Paralympic athletes.

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Lighting the Olympic Flame. Photo credit: Jonathan Thorpe (jthorpephoto.com)

These athletes include: Sam Mikulak and Adrian De Los Angeles (gymnasts and fellow University of Michigan alums), Dan O’Brien (gold medal – decathlon), Sophia Herzog (silver medal paralympic swimming), Cale Simmons (pole vault), Richard Torrez (boxing), Corey Hope (Greco-Roman Wrestling), Sarah Hammer (cycling), Adrian De Los Angeles (gymnastics), Jennifer Page (wrestling), and Mike Tagliapietra (paralympic shooting) and others. All were very friendly and inspiring in their own way.

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With Dan O’Brien and his gold medal!

But, one Olympians story I found especially inspiring: Brandon Lyons’ (paralympic cycling).

Paralyzed from the waist down when he dove off a pier into the ocean on vacation over Memorial Day in 2014 the former Penn State Club Lacrosse player and 2013 graduate found himself in a situation where no one would blame him if he wallowed in self-pity and depression. Losing the use of your legs must be difficult for anyone, but especially for an athletic young man in his physical prime. But, Brandon did not let himself stay down for long and within months he had picked up a new sport – hand cycling – and by the end of the summer was competing in marathons! Now, less than three years since his life changing incident he is training for the Paralympic

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With Sam Mikulak

games in Tokyo (2020). I’m sure just like anyone in a difficult situation he had moments of doubt, self-pity, anger, frustration, and pain but he hasn’t let that stop him. He examined his life and decided to re-focus and re-purpose. I know that he won’t give up on walking again someday – but in the meantime he is showing the rest of us how to tackle life!

To me, Brandon’s attitude is what being an Olympian is all about. Regardless of hardship, regardless of conditions, you keep going no matter what until you cross that finish line. In an age where the goal of being an athlete seems to be money, fame, and glory it’s good to be reminded that the true reason we compete is to inspire and motivate others and, perhaps more importantly, ourselves.

Onward!

P.S. – You can read more about Brandon’s story here.

Brandon Lyons Training

Brandon Lyons on a training ride in Colorado Springs (photo courtesy of Brandon Lyons via PennLive.com)

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