Tag: Paralympics

With the Paralympics just days away, there have been multiple stories regarding the living conditions in the Olympic village. News of trash fires and flooded rooms darkened the first impressions of Rio heading into the Olympics. Conditions were so bad that the USA Basketball teams are stayed on a luxury cruise ship. Obviously, conditions are less than ideal for these athletes. Should this affect their play?

Seldom is the case that conditions will be perfect for you during competition. For outdoor events, playing conditions are subject to the weather, with the wind, rain, and even snow becoming a factor. Away teams travel on cramped buses or sit for hours on a long plane ride, while the home team sleeps comfortably in their regular beds the night before. For every athletic event out there, there are just as many things that can go wrong. It is easy to get discouraged under difficult circumstances or blame a poor performance on the conditions. However, there is always something you can do about it. You can always control how you react to it.

John Wooden famously stated, “Things turn out best for the people who make the best of the way things turn out.” You will never be able to control how your sport plays out, but you are always in control of your actions. If it’s pouring rain during your competition, a constructive way to respond is to accept the rain for what it is and determine how you can play your best even though you are soaking wet. While others are complaining about the wet conditions, you can focus on the game and what you need to do to win.

Another common distraction is when things go awry leading up to competition. Similar to the disturbing events leading up to Rio, things can go wrong before you get to the contest site. Your transportation may break down. Heavy traffic might delay your arrival. You, yourself, might be someone who typically misplaces your gear. These scenarios may increase your anxiety or distract you from you pre-performance routine. However, if you can accept the present conditions and make best with what you have, you can maintain a high level of play under difficult circumstances.

Perfect conditions rarely happen in athletics. You cannot control what happens around you. If you wait to act until the situations are perfect, then it is likely you will be waiting forever. However, if you accept the adversity that surrounds you and react accordingly, you will be much better off. Megan Kalmoe, a member of the US Olympic Rowing Team, understands this. In a recent blog post of hers, Megan eloquently stated that she “would row through [expletive] for you, America.” We all know the water conditions are poor, but how does dwelling on that help our athletes succeed? As Megan says, it does not help. The competitors who can focus on their performance, rather than let themselves be distracted by poor conditions, are the ones who will give themselves the best shot of winning medals in Rio.

What you choose to focus on is in your control. If you focus on the adverse conditions and wait until If you decide to focus on your behavior, instead of the adverse conditions that surround you, your chances of a better performance will increase.



Adversity Since Birth

We hear all about the sports figures that are in the limelight: Michael Phelps, Tom Brady, Tiger Woods, Serena Williams, and Mia Hamm to name a few. But is it possible that there is a few that hold the same credence without getting the proper attention they deserve? Absolutely, and Tatyana McFadden may be at the top of that list.

Born in St. Petersburg, Russia, Tatyana grew up in an orphanage for the first six years of her life. Born with Spina Bifida, a disability caused by a hole in your back, she was paralyzed from her waist down. While the other kids ran around, Tatyana refused to fall behind so she learned how to walk using only her arms and hands. Without the funding to buy a wheelchair, she unknowingly began to develop arm strength that would aid her rise to stardom in the years to come. Her wheelchair did come with time however when she was introduced to Deborah McFadden, an American woman who was taking routine a business trip as the Commissioner of Disabilities for the U.S. Department of Health. The two instantly connected and the adoption process took place before Deborah returned home.

11 Medals And Counting

Tatyana was still volatile upon her arrival in America, and was given a timeline of a few months to two or three years maximum left to live. Hoping to build up her strength, Tatyana’s new parents introduced her to sports, an infatuation that would bring her international success and an amazing mindset that puts most to shame. She tried many sports, but absolutely loved wheelchair racing, and excelled at it in no time. She told her mother that she wanted to be an Olympian one day, that she wanted to feel what they (Olympic athletes) feel when standing on the winner’s podium. Sure enough, Tatyana would experience that feeling not once, not twice, but 11 times in the 10 years that followed. At the 2014 Paralympics, she received her first two medals in wheelchair racing at age 14, one silver and one bronze. Four years later in Beijing, she added 4 more medals which was then mimicked in the 2012 Paralympics in London when she tallied another 4, 3 of those being gold medals. Making her the fastest woman in the world in her sport. While most people would be satisfied with 10 Olympic medals, Tatyana was unenthused with only participating in one sport. In 2013 she decided to pick up cross-country skiing, and with less than one year of experience in the snow, you guessed it, she made the winter Paralympics. And while she was at it she amazingly enough out performed all but one, slightly missing the gold medal and receiving silver.

If you are not too busy picking up your jaw that has rightfully dropped, the most incredible thing to consider is that she has accomplished all of this before graduating from college. As 2014 eventually rolled around, Tatyana finished her education at the University of Illinois with a degree in Human Development and Family Studies, she plans to pursue graduate studies which is another thing that should not seem surprising at this point. She carries a precedence and demand for excellence in all facets of her life. She says that through her life she has “wanted to prove that with training and hard work and dedication you can be the best. And if you don’t train you wont be the best.” Plain and simply, hard work is her mantra. This mentality has been most recently rewarded when she received the 2015 Laureus World Sportsperson of the Year with a Disability Award for her accomplishments in both track and field and cross-country skiing. And when asked about her “disability” she responds by saying “I hate that word, disability, because there is nothing disabled about us (those that are disabled), we have accomplished much more than the average person.” She is absolutely right, and maybe her words and actions will one day inspire the Laureus award to be renamed to the Laureus World Sportsperson of the Year with a Sports Ability Award. Tatyana McFadden demonstrates the mental toughness and resilience that we should all seek, and shows us that “disability” is simply a limitation that we put on ourselves.

To read more about her story check out this website and this video.