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.
The opinions expressed by authors may not necessarily reflect the opinion of FaithWriters.com.
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