Who Is the Best Olympian?
By Steve Gaul
I’m going to take a little break from the preacher pulpit and talk about something I heard on the radio last week. Clara Hughes was interviewed. If it is at all possible that anyone doesn’t know who she is, she is a Canadian cyclist and speed skater, who has won multiple Olympic medals in both sports. Hughes won two bronze in the Summer Olympics in 1996 and four medals (one gold, one silver, two bronze) over the course of three Winter Olympics. Hughes is one of only five people on the planet EVER to have podium finishes in both the Winter and Summer versions of the games, and is the ONLY person ever to have won multiple medals in both. (And they’re calling Michael Phelps the greatest Olympian of all time?)
Clara competed in the 2012 London Olympics cycling time trial and finished 5th. In September she will be 40 years old. By far the oldest cyclist to compete in the Olympics, let alone to actually compete at a level to come 5th. How can she be in good enough shape at the age of 40 to still be 5th best in the world? Was she born to elite athletes whose gene pool gave her an unfair advantage over the rest of us? No! Was her family rich enough that she never had to work and had the best of all training facilities and coaches and doctors and therapist at her disposal? Not that I was able to find out. However, her success I imagine gave her access to pretty much anything she wanted after some time. Besides her athletic accolades what else has she done? As a result of her success in multiple sports and her humanitarian efforts, Hughes was named to both the Order of Manitoba and as an Officer of the Order of Canada. She is involved with Right To Play, which is an athlete-driven international humanitarian organization that uses sports to encourage the development of youth in disadvantaged areas. After winning her gold medal in 2006, she donated $10,000 to Right to Play.
Throughout her career Hughes received a number of other awards, trophies, and accolades. She was named Female Athlete of the Year by Speed Skating Canada in 2004 for long track. In 2006 she received the International Olympic Committee's Sport and Community Trophy. She was then named to the 2006 List of Most Influential Women in Sport and Physical Activity by the Canadian Association for Advancement of Women and Sport (CAAWS). In the summer of the year 2010, it was announced that she would receive a star on the Canadian Walk of Fame and on 15 November 2010, she was inducted into Canada's Sports Hall of Fame
Not to be out done, Michael Phelps, after the 2008 Olympics, used his $1-million Speedo bonus to set up the Michael Phelps Foundation. His foundation focuses on growing the sport of swimming and promoting healthier lifestyles.
In 2010, the Michael Phelps Foundation, the Michael Phelps Swim School and KidsHealth.Org developed and nationally piloted the "im" program for Boys & Girls Club members. The im program teaches children the importance of being active and healthy, with a focus on the sport of swimming. It also promotes the value of planning and goal-setting. im is offered through the Boys & Girls Clubs of America and through Special Olympics International. The Foundation has since developed two other programs, Level Field Fund-Swimming and Caps-for-a-Cause.
The Foundation's largest event is its annual fundraiser, the Michael Phelps Foundation Golf Classic. Phelps stated he hopes to work with Foundation more after he retires from competition following the 2012 Summer Olympics in London.
So when it comes to comparing the two or stating who’s the best Olympian of all time is, you be the judge. The great thing about this is that there is no right or wrong, just opinions. I am sure there’s not one reader out there that couldn’t spend an entire evening bantering this topic. Where I would like to go from here is......
We get tears in our eyes watching these athletes perform and we are captivated by their stories. We buy their books and watch the documentaries. At what point do we allow ourselves to be motivated by these special individuals? As I mentioned above Clara was not bred from athletically gifted gene pool and from what I know of Michaels mom neither is he. So I regress. What makes them so special? The answer my friends is that they had the determination, the drive, the motivation to get up off their asses and make a difference. To make their dreams come true. To take their bodies to the limits and explore the possibilities. Explore they did. They are two of the best. This is not to say that every one of us should be Olympic athletes. But we can take from these games the lessons they give. Soak up the success stories born from hard work, sweat and tears. Become inspired by them and get up off our asses and be the best YOU you can. The purpose of the London 2012 games was to inspire a generation. Maybe it’s fitting that this comes at a time where the younger generation is larger and more sedentary than ever before. Let the games inspire us. The body achieves what the mind believes. Ready to Do Different? ...Prove it...actions speak louder than words...get off your ass...make a decision to live in the solution and stop seeking excuses to remain in the problem...the only thing stopping you is YOU!!!
To all the athletes of the London 2012 Olympics, Thank you. Your years of dedication to the perfection of your sport is an inspiration to us all, and an example of what the human body is truly capable of.
Life happens in the mind, think it, see it, be it.