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The Olympics: Celebrating Unity and Peace through Sports, Part 3 of 3

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Today, we’ll discuss in more detail how some of these extraordinary individuals of the past set a high standard for present and future athletes to follow.

Young Wilma Rudolph of the United States suffered from polio for years, but nonetheless managed to win a bronze medal in the 4 x 100 meters relay at the Melbourne Olympic Games in 1956, aged only 16. Four years later, she went on to win gold in the 100-meter dash at the 1960 Rome Olympics. What Wilma demonstrated may at first seem like a miracle, but in fact her achievements were due to her incredible personal effort, inner strength, indubitable discipline, and deep desire to succeed.

Despite being praised by people around the world for bringing home four gold medals from the Berlin Olympic Games of 1936, the US athlete Jesse Owen felt the most beautiful gift he received was his friendship with a German athlete. Being frustrated with his poor performance in the long jump during the qualifying round, Owen received sincere consolation from his new friend, who also happened to be his strongest competitor, Luz Long of Germany. Although political tensions existed between the United States and Germany at the time, Luz Long valued friendship regardless of a person’s nationality or ethnicity.

Canadian sailor Lawrence Lemieux was highly expected to win in the Finn class sailing event at the 1988 Seoul, Korea Summer Olympics. Holding second place in the race and knowing he could pass his opponent to win, Lemieux saw one of the other two-person boats had flipped over. He could see that one crew member was holding on tight to the boat and was relatively safe, but the other member was fighting for his life in the water. Lemieux decisively left the race and saved the stricken boat crewmember, later rejoining his team to finish in 22nd place. However, after a redress from the race judges, he was credited with second position. At the medal ceremony to recognize and honor his heroic deed, Lemieux was awarded the Pierre de Coubertin Medal for “Sportsmanship for his act” by the Honorable Juan Antonio Samaranch, President of the International Olympic Committee. Lemieux felt surprised at the abundance of media attention and interest in his selfless deed, after which he said it was “something I believe anyone would have done in the same circumstances.”

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