Every four years, the world’s greatest athletes come together to compete for personal and national glory. The Summer Olympics can offer lessons to young athletes as well as the less-athletically gifted among us. Sports that rarely get TV time could inspire your child to try a new pursuit. The stories of athletes who dreamed big enough to qualify for the world stage can keep you on track in your own pursuit of fitness. UAB News will have tips to help you achieve fitness goals and overcome challenges. These stories and more as the Olympic torch is lighted in London.
A competition-ending injury before the Olympic Games can be devastating for an athlete forced to wait another four years to compete. But overcoming health challenges is par for the course, says one University of Alabama at Birmingham expert who has practiced what she preaches.
“Olympic athletes, and Olympic hopefuls, train and prepare their entire lives for this two-week event — it’s their dream — so missing competition at the international level can be devastating at first,” says Lauren Whitt, Ph.D., UAB Wellness coordinator.
Whitt knows the frustrations that arise after being forced off the field due to injury. After helping the U.S. Youth National Soccer Team win gold as a goalie in the 1999 Pan American Games, she tore her ACL and MCL — two of the four major ligaments of the knee — and lateral and medial meniscus cartilage. The she re-tore her ACL a second time requiring rehabilitation for another six months.
The road to London was not without wrong turns and dead ends for Summer Olympians, says one University of Alabama at Birmingham expert, but overcoming detours is essential on a journey to greatness.
“There are about 10,000 athletes in the Summer Olympics. With the world population at about 7 billion, the chances of making it that far are about 1 in 562,400,” Bill Mallon, past president and co-founder of the International Society of Olympic Historians.
Slim chances and high hurdles can make an Olympic-size goal seem unattainable, but with the right moves you can cross the finish line.
“I remember watching the Olympics when I was about 10 years old and deciding I wanted to represent my country,” says Lauren Whitt, Ph.D., UAB Wellness coordinator and a member of the U.S. Youth National Soccer Team that won gold at the 1999 Pan American Games.
Whitt says she had to commit to training and sacrifice things like free time and vacations, but desire and a plan to succeed helped keep her motivated.
“The path to achieving big dreams is similar for all of us. We have to make personal sacrifices, be determined, disciplined and break down an overwhelming goal into manageable pieces,” Whitt says.
The Summer Olympic Games hope to “Inspire a Generation” with two weeks of events including swimming, cycling and gymnastics that will dominate more than 272 hours of airtime on NBC stations, and experts at the University of Alabama at Birmingham say the exposure is a great opportunity to show kids a variety of sports and activities they can pursue.
American kids ages 6-17 most often participate in team sports, unlike the summer Olympians who will be cycling, running, vaulting and swimming, according to a 2011 report from the Sporting Goods Manufacturers Administration.
“The Games are a great chance to pique kids’ interest in sports they don’t see every day on television or in their communities,” says Lauren Whitt, Ph.D., UAB Wellness coordinator and a member of the U.S. Youth National Soccer Team that won gold at the 1999 Pan American Games.