We know that playing sports requires plenty of hard work and determination. In order to achieve the success they want, athletes must overcome obstacles in their path, however they present themselves. We have seen many athletes do this and it is truly inspiring. For this story, a completely nonfictional story, I would like to recount one of the most memorable moments in sports, and one of my personal favorites: the year Olympic gymnast Kerri Strug overcame an ankle injury in order to help team USA win the gold medal.
Kerri Allyson Strug was born in Tucson, Arizona in the year 1977. She began competing in gymnastics at the age of eight. By the time she was fourteen, she was already on the US National team as the youngest member on the team. While there, she went on to win a bronze medal at the Barcelona Olympics for her country. She continued to work hard for her team even on the off years of the Olympics. She was truly a talented and driven athlete. This was proven at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta, Georgia. It was the US against Russia, a matchup seen often in the Olympic gymnastics. The US, once leading, had fallen behind after one of the girls on the team fell twice during her performance. It was Kerri’s turn to go and her team was relying on her. So Kerri got up and performed a vault with a twist and handspring. Unfortunately, she did not land well. She slipped on her landing and fell on her behind while at the same time tearing two ligaments in her ankle. Anyone who has ever played a sport knows how painful ankle injuries can be. For most athletes, it is impossible to continue playing. It was disappointing for Kerri because she had fallen and received a lower score than she would have liked. According to reports, Strug’s US coach walked over to her and told her that they need her to go again. It was time for her to perform her second vault. In order to win the gold for her team, Kerri realized that she had to perform her second vault while injured and she had to perform it well and stick the landing. Like many of us would do in her situation, Strug offered up a prayer and was helped over to her beginning point. With the crowd applauding wildly behind her and all of her opponents, teammates, family, and the world watching her, Kerry sprinted down the mat and performed a back handspring on the vault and landed on her two feet, including her injured ankle perfectly. She remained this way long enough to receive her marks from the judges before she fell over on the mat after injuring the same ankle again, but at the same time gaining enough points to win her team the Gold medal.
I think we have all seen that moment when Kerri Strug landed a vault on an injured ankle. If you haven’t, then you need to. It is an unforgettable moment for the books. A moment that truly showed the resolve and willpower that is required to be a successful athlete. Kerri did not have to continue if she felt she couldn’t. But she didn’t feel that way. What she felt was that she had to. This is also a lesson to all of us. No matter what obstacles come into the path of our success, no matter how much they try to derail us, and no matter how much it hurts, there is nothing that we cannot do if we set our mind to it. The only thing separating that 4’9 girl from the rest of us is drive.