Finding Inspiration at the Winter Olympics

On February 9th, the world watched the opening ceremonies and celebrated the beginning of the 2018 Winter Olympic Games. For the next two weeks, people around the globe will tune in to cheer for their favorite athletes as they compete for Olympic gold.

As you read this, ask yourself, “Is there something I’ve always wanted to do but never thought I could?” Before you write yourself off, consider these stories.

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On February 24th, Laura Gomez will represent Colombia as a speed skater. Perhaps no one is more surprised about that fact than Gomez herself. That’s because six months ago, Gomez had never put on a pair of speed skates. An inline skater, she first began training for speed skating in Salt Lake City last July.

While her recent crossover into speed skating is ample reason to marvel at her presence in PyeongChang, Gomez has an additional cause for surprise. Other speed skaters competing in the Winter Olympics learned of their qualification in November and December. But Gomez was notified just over a week before she had to leave for South Korea. She gained her spot on the Olympic roster when two female Russian speed skaters were banned for doping. In an instant, Gomez’s life changed forever. When she steps onto the ice in PyeongChang, she will no longer be the inline skater just testing out her speed skates, she will be an Olympian and the first female speed skater to represent Colombia in the Winter Olympics.

If you need further proof that no dream is too big, take a look at the Nigerian women’s bobsled team. Yes, you read that correctly. This year will mark Nigeria’s first-ever representation at the Winter Olympics and Africa’s first entry into the bobsled event. The team is composed of Seun Adigun, Ngozi Onwumere, and Akuoma Omeoga. All three are Nigerian-Americans with impressive backgrounds in track and field.

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Adigun, the team’s driver, is not new to the Olympic stage. She competed at the 2012 Summer Olympics in the 100 meter hurdles. Then in 2015, she set her sights on a much different sort of track. She asked her friends, Onwumere and Omeoga to join her in a quest to represent Nigeria, and the entire continent of Africa, in the Winter Olympics.

After months of training on the ice, and on track and turf in a wooden bobsled created by Adigun herself, the trio are ready to make history in PyeongChang. They know that no matter what happens on the track, they have already succeeded in bringing inspiration to other Nigerian athletes who want to pursue their Winter Olympic dreams.

These stories are incredible examples of what can happen when an individual or team devotes themselves to achieving their goals. But perhaps what is most inspiring about these stories is  that they are not uncommon. The Olympics provide a stage not only for athletic skill, but for the world to be inspired by stories of hundreds of athletes who pursue their dreams with relentless passion, determination, and hard work. The Olympics are about so much more than sports. They inspire us, unite us, and most important, they remind us that anything is possible.