WOW Dozen: Inspiring Journeys: Overcoming Adversity on the Road to Olympic Victory

By Mary L. Fahrenbruck, New Mexico State University, Las Cruces, NM

In July 2024, the world’s attention will turn to Paris, France, as athletes from across the globe come together to compete in the summer Olympic Games. Millions of spectators will watch as these Olympic athletes showcase their physical talents in running, jumping, throwing, rowing, cycling, tumbling, diving and swimming events among others, all competing for a chance to write their names in sporting history.

Olympic athletes, past and present, are often celebrated for their physical achievements, but their journeys to the medal podium are also filled with inspiring stories of overcoming adversity. This month, the WOW Dozen features stories about past Olympic athletes who overcame significant obstacles including racism, sexism, poverty and illness to reach the peak of their sports. Notable stories include Sammy Lee, who practiced his diving skills in a backyard sandpit due to segregated pools, eventually winning gold and bronze medals, and Billy Mills who overcame personal obstacles and surpassed expectations with his remarkable victory in the 10,000-meter race at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics.

This WOW Dozen features stories about courageous individuals who had the determination and confidence necessary to succeed against all odds. Sharing these Olympians’ stories celebrates their lives and teaches valuable lessons, inspiring the next generation. Continue reading