Lessons from Olympians

by Ali Piazza

This man showed up at my school yesterday to give a presentation to the students. His name is Martin Reader and he made the female teachers (and some of the male) swoon. He played beach voleyball for Canada in the 2012 London Olympics.

And despite being 6″7′ and lovely to look at, like all successful people, he had his fair share of adversity to overcome on his way to becoming an Olympian.

He is one of these people who have a naturally strong desire to succeed. He decided that at a  age 6 he was going to be an Olympian. So he started to train as a swimmer. But at the age of 11 he started to become allergic to the chlorine in the pool and suddenly his dream of being an Olympic swimmer came crashing down. But this didn’t stop him. He simply changed sports and began to do something that he was able to do.

The lesson that he taught the kids was this… nothing new, but true nonetheless: the road to success is hard and sometimes is hurts. But perseverance is key and you have to push through the discomfort in order to end up on top.

Gold Medalist!

It was also awesome to meet the one athlete that won the only gold medal for Canada, Rosie MacLennan. She won it for trampolining. She was able to jump so high that she was able to high five Martin Reader with his hand raised! That’s like being able to touch an 8 foot ceiling!

She talked about the mental aspect of being an athlete and how you can be your own worst enemy. She told the story of a time when she was feeling particulary down about herself and her abilites. Her coach asked her if she felt that she could be the best in the world.

She said no.

He then asked her ‘why not?’

Her life changed at that moment as she couldn’t come up with a real reason why she couldn’t be the best.

She was obviously right :)

I also got to touch her gold medal which was pretty cool considering it will most likely be the only time I get to touch one.







But the one Olympian that really impressed me and many of the kids was Tyler Miller. He won gold at the paralympics for men’s basketball. He had an amazing story of overcoming adversity.

At the age of 22, he was working in a trade job and there was an industrial accident where 1000lbs of metal fell on him and crushed his back that left him paralysed. After months in a hospital, he went home and stayed there. Depression had set in. Eventually a friend convinced him to leave his house and try out wheel chair basketball. When he first got to the center he was embarrassed as most of the kids that were playing were 12 and 13 years old. But he got over his ego and started to play.

5 years later he won a gold medal!

His ablity to move in his game chair was remarkable. He was able to weave in and out of kids walking in front of him without even flinching. I was afraid that he was going to run over them. But he kept on moving with grace and ease.

What I learned

Nobody’s journey to success is easy and smooth. There will be many bumps and road blocks along the way. And sometimes success doesn’t come in the package that you were expecting. It is your mind and ego that will cause you to fail if you let it. But with persistence and faith, it will reveal itself.

Success is messy, bumpy and hard – but oh so worth it!!

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