By Keysha Hogan – @TheKeysha
Here in America there are some things that could definitely use improvement. Currently we rank 25th in math education and our population averages about an 8th grade reading level. Over 2.3 million people fill our prisons and don’t get me started on the electoral college system or the shaky financial market. But every two years we get to compete against the world on the level playing field of athletics. The Summer and Winter Olympic games give us a chance to remind the world why we’ll always have and edge on everyone else.
As a nation of immigrants we are all the descendants of the toughest, bravest, strongest, and most determined people in the world. Don’t believe me? Well, try leaving everything you know, travelling across oceans to a new land where you don’t speak the language or know another soul. That, in itself, takes guts. Then after you arrive you set out to build a life, a career, and a community in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds. Continuously striving and working for better results are the traits that are within each of us, and in the hearts of our Olympic athletes.
Take hurdler Lolo Jones, for example, who was raised by a single mother of six children in Des Moines, Iowa. Jones has talked about the hardship of growing up without stable income, food and housing. During the summers when school was out, her entire family lived out of a church basement where she attended a day camp. Living with the constant unknown motivated Jones to do whatever was necessary to succeed. In high school, she told her mother that she would no longer be changing addresses and schools. Jones struck out on her own, leaving her mother and siblings, and moved in with the families of school friends. Just a few years later, Jones graduated with a full track scholarship to LSU. And then there’s volleyball player Jake Gibb’s inspiring story. In 2011, Gibb tested false-positive during a sanctioned drug test. After he appealed, the results were further studied and Gibb’s test was cleared for drug use, but was found positive for testicular cancer. The grueling travel and competition schedule had already resulted in Gibb’s missing the delivery of his first child, and his dreams for the London Olympics were quickly fading when doctors told him that he would need three rounds of chemotherapy. He underwent additional testing and his doctors felt that the cancer had been caught quickly enough to forgo the chemo treatments. Immediately Gibbs contacted his teammate and started planning his return to the game. And so far they are winning their way to the gold medal match on August 9th.
It’s easy to recognize that there are brilliant athletes with heartbreaking stories from all over the world. Struggle doesn’t limit itself to political borders. But these two athletes are just a sample of what the U.S. brings to the table. Our resilience and unique brand of fight will see us through any recession, crisis, sickness or hurdle.