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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: Sport or Fitness (02/15/07)

TITLE: Inspiring Greatness Every Day
By Donna Emery
02/18/07


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The face of athletic greatness isn't always found on the front of a cereal box.

It isn't always measured by million dollar salaries or by endorsing sneakers or sports drinks.

If you want to meet a great athlete, take a look at Xu Chen, a gold medal winner for the Chinese Special Olympics basketball team. He not only won a gold medal in basketball, but he played one-on-one with his personal hero Vlade Divac, an NBA Allstar and winner of an Olympic silver medal. None of his Special Olympic teammates or coaches were surprised when Chen won that basketball contest.

Vlade praised Xu’s abilities and said that the friendly encounter had been the highlight of his day. He feels that participation in Special Olympics gives “a much better understanding of people with intellectual disabilities, which will foster friendships, inclusion and acceptance.”.

Another picture of greatness can be found in Sasha Mulder, who won a gold medal in judo at the Special Olympics European games. Sasha used to be painfully shy, but as she studies and gains skill in judo she has gradually become outgoing and confident.

Greatness isn't a word that Donnalee Reese would use to describe herself, but her coaches would heartily disagree. Donnalee has participated and competed in athletics, aquatics, track and field, ice skating, soccer, bowling, and powerlifting. She was the first female athlete in the country to train and compete in powerlifting.

Lindsay’s mother always believed in her daughter but it wasn't until she got involved in Special Olympics that Lindsay began to believe in herself. Here she found a place that sought her because of her intellectual challenges, and gave her the opportunity to learn and excel in several sports. Lindsay now competes in the softball throw, the standing long jump, and a tricycle race. At age 23, the confidence she’s gained allows her to hold down a job and live on her own.

Some teens live for fast cars, dates, and parties. Donald Haffelfinger spends his spare time as a Special Olympics ambassador and speaks to groups about the benefits of Special Olympics. Donald is an Eagle Scout and has competed in basketball, soccer, and athletics. He now serves as a coach in some of his events.

Greatness is an athlete who sees one of his opponents trip and fall - and runs back to help the opponent get up and cross the finish line.

Greatness is an athlete who sees someone reach a personal goal - and enthusiastically cheers that person on, no matter what team they are on.

Greatness is good sportsmanship and playing the game for the fun of the sport.

Greatness is millions of Special Olympics volunteers, coaches and workers around the world who are all dedicated to the organization's motto: "inspire greatness". They believe in the potential greatness of every individual, and are dedicated to working with intellectually challenged people in order to help them participate in varied sporting events at local, regional, state, national and international levels. Some are people who are or were professional athletes in the events that they coach. Others are parents or caring friends. Others are Special Olympic athletes who want to give something back to the organization.

I don't know if they'll ever be found on the front of cereal boxes, but they epitomize "athletic greatness" to me.

************************************************************************
The author dedicates this story to the Special Olympics athletes and coaches in my family.
www.specialolympics.org
www.specialolympicspa.org


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This article has been read 873 times
Member Comments
Member Date
Christine Dunn02/22/07
This was very interesting to learn about. It was also inspiring. The little proverbs in the middle were really thought-provoking. Well done.
Allison Egley 02/24/07
This was good. I've always been interested in people who face challenges like these every day. I think I would have focused on one or two athletes in depth, rather than trying to give us a small glimpse of many athletes.
Helen Paynter02/24/07
Great, inspiring stories. Thank you.
Jacquelyn Horne02/24/07
Always glad to hear of people who work in the Special Olympics. I admire them very much although I have never been privileged to work with them.
Jen Davis02/25/07
A very strong beginning to this piece and an interesting take on the topic. I enjoyed the various examples you gave of the different athletes. I loved this line: "Greatness is an athlete who sees one of his opponents trip and fall - and runs back to help the opponent get up and cross the finish line." I couldn’t agree more. Nice job!
Joanne Sher 02/25/07
Definitely very inspiring stories! Thank you so much for sharing them.
Jan Ackerson 02/25/07
I like the repetition of the "Greatness is..." paragraphs. Very effective. I have a brother who has been a Special Olympian, and I really appreciate this piece.
Joanney Uthe02/25/07
Thank you for this take on the topic. Nothing brings perspective to sports like the Special Olympics. I agree with the others on the effectiveness of the "Greatness is..." statements. Awesome article.
Michelle Burkhardt02/27/07
It takes a special gift to work with such special people. I could hear your heart throughout your introduction of the athletes. Nice job.
Marilee Alvey02/27/07
I really loved this piece. You had my attention immediately. These athletes, every one of them, are overcomers. I couldn't help but think about how the meek will inherit the Earth....how the last shall be first, and how God speaks through our weakness. I know that God applauds the sentiments in this piece. This was very well written. I only saw one flaw in it...several times. It's an easy one to correct, too, and one of the most common grammatical mistakes made: punctuation marks go inside of quotation marks, not outside. Easy to fix, huh? Your story is DYNAMITE! Well written, unique, with a great takeaway!
Patty Wysong02/28/07
I loved reading this, both times! A special piece for special people!
Sara Harricharan 02/28/07
This is a beautiful tribute to the wonderful, true 'athletes' out there who do what they do with the right spirit and attitude and make a difference even if it's just inside themselves or someone around them. I love the title and the many different 'characters'. Thoroughly inspiring + Awesome writing! ^_^
Clyde Blakely 03/02/07
Thank you Donna for pointing out what Special athletes we have. One other item I would add to your list of what makes a great athlete - one who brings tears to your eyes! God bless - obviously not written for your own personal goal!