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Posts Tagged Olympics

Rafaela Silva Rises From Slum To Olympics Gold

Perhaps you have heard of Rafaela…she just won the women’s gold medal in Judo. Her rise is a great achievement worth appreciating, and this 2014 video spells it out beautifully.

Her story is outstanding: raised in the City of God favela (shanty town or slum), she played and fought in the streets. She was always in trouble. But at age eight, her father took her to a local judo academy, and her coach saw her talent and cultivated it. He said she was used to seeing crime, drug dealers, dead bodies. She knew that the struggle in the dojo (training gym) was nothing compared to that.

She became so good that she competed in the 2012 Olympics in London. But she was disqualified there for using a leg move that had recently been declared illegal. She almost considered quitting judo after that…and the racist words hurled at her. But her judo friends and coaches supported her and encouraged her to stay with it…then she became the world champion in 2013 and the Olympic champion in 2016.

Lots of young people want to follow her and be like her. Silva tells them to be themselves and follow their own dream. Good advice.

Another great part of this story involves the gym she went to that was founded in 2003 by Flavio Canto, who won a bronze medal in men’s judo at the 2004 Olympics. He was a Brazilian who had grown up partly in England and the US and saw the extremes of rich and poor in Rio and wanted to do something about it. So he offered free judo classes to kids from the favelas. He saw that the discipline and achievements in the dojo led to improved performance, values and attitudes in all the rest of the kids’ lives. In school and at home, judo’s teachings of bravery, determination and humility were transforming the kids. They were improving and bettering themselves. Canto’s dojos are in five different favelas catering to around 1000 students.

“In life we always seek for an activity that makes you complete. Until then my life was all about judo and the Olympic dream. When the Instituto Reação came into my life I found a new way, which made me feel accomplished. This social project prepared me to leave the competition behind. In my last years as an athlete I no longer felt so motivating to have results and winning medals. I knew within me was born a desire to do more important and relevant things,” said Flávio.

“When this project started I began to live the reality of the slums and that shocked me a lot. I realized that there were generations getting lost to violence, in the drug dealing war. It was common to see young boys of all ages carrying weapons very close to our academy here in Rocinha. I still wasn’t sure if my intention of bringing sport and education (literacy) closer to these kids could work,” he explains.

There is no doubt about it now. He certainly has made a difference way beyond discovering and training an Olympics gold medalist.

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Manteo Mitchell Finishes His Race With A Broken Leg

Manteo Mitchell looks good in this picture—8/9/2012

Another story of superhuman effort at the Olympics. It’s hard for me to imagine people tuning out the pain to this degree. Look back to the August 6th post to learn about Kerri Strug’s victorious vault. Humans can really be amazing. So I guess it’s easy enough for me to play tennis through a bit of a cramp. And I love the last line of this post. What planet is this guy living on?

LONDON – Move over, Kerri Strug. America has a new Olympian performing heroically on a broken leg.

Runner Manteo Mitchell said he “felt” and “heard” his fibula breaking midway through his lead-off leg of the 4×400-meter relay in qualifying heats. He kept running, going another 200 meters and handing off the baton to Joshua Mance. The U.S. went on to finish second in the heat, advancing to the final Friday night.

America would not have kept its medal hopes alive in the event without the effort of Mitchell. His injury was diagnosed after the race by team doctor Bob Adams: broken left fibula.

Mitchell (rt) finished his race with a broken leg—8/9/2012

“I knew if I finished strong we could still get it [the baton] around,” Mitchell said. “I got out pretty slow, but I picked it up and when I got to the 100-meter mark it felt weird,” Mitchell told USA Track and Field. “I was thinking I just didn’t feel right. As soon as I took the first step past the 200-meter mark, I felt it break. I heard it. I even put out a little war cry, but the crowd was so loud you couldn’t hear it. I wanted to just lie down. It felt like somebody literally just snapped my leg in half. I saw Josh Mance motioning me in for me to hand it off to him, which lifted me. I didn’t want to let those three guys down, or the team down, so I just ran on it. It hurt so bad. I’m pretty amazed that I still split 45 seconds on a broken leg.”

Mitchell believes he initially injured the leg a few days ago in the Olympic Village when he slipped on a stairway. Mitchell says “I figured it’s what almost any person would’ve done in that situation.”

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Blood On The Court

Yesterday after I slammed my head into the squash court wall, there was enough blood on the floor and in my cupped hand that I wondered if I had a concussion or was going to need stitches for the ¾ inch gash above my right eye.

Later while watching the Olympics, I grimaced during the three crashes I saw in the women’s downhill ski competition. And Lindsay Vonn won a gold medal in that event in spite of her pained shin, her almost-ripped-off thumb.

This morning I read about a snowboard athlete, Kevin Pearce, who wiped out in training and is in rehab learning how to walk again. Shaun White (gold medal snowboarder) has experienced a list of injuries from his sport that makes one pity his mother: He fractured his skull, broke his right hand and right foot and was knocked unconscious—all by age 11.

Now that I follow professional athletes—or even the amateurs I know—we are all getting injured all the time. It comes with the territory. But I lived for decades without messing up my body. I didn’t have broken anything, much less limps, bruises and aches. Can any of you who play sports imagine such a pain-free existence?

I can’t any longer. Though I am not taking the extreme risks of the pros, who might die or be permanently disabled from their passion to play and excel. I still can’t grasp those rock climbers who fall to their deaths with one slip of the finger. Unimaginable.

In an article about the dangers of Olympic winter sports, I read that Statistics from the Consumer Product Safety Commission make clear just how dangerous winter sports can be and not just for Olympians: 139,332 Americans were injured while skiing in 2007 and even more, 164,002, got hurt while snowboarding that year. And when looking at all winter-sport injuries, including sledding, snowmobiling and ice skating, 10 percent involved a head injury.

Why do we all do it, to whatever degree? Read the rest of this entry »

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