Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of April 26, 2004
Just give up just doen not compute
Light One Candle
By MSGR. JIM LISANTE
The New York Athletic Club in New York City is an amazing place. It's loaded with sports history, and Olympic history in particular. I recently walked through its Hall of Fame. It contains awards won by great athletes for over 100 years. The club supported many of these gifted athletes.
I was struck by one winner in particular. His name was Ray Ewry. He was a native of Lafayette, Ind., born in 1873. What grabbed my attention was his list of accomplishments. This heretofore unknown (by me) young man, was the winner of 10 Olympic gold medals. That's right, 10 gold medals.
Now this is what that achievement meant. Swimmer Mark Spitz is famous for winning five gold medals. Running and jumping star Carl Lewis is rightly celebrated for winning nine gold medals. Bruce Jenner has one gold medal. The legendary Jim Thorpe received two gold medals.
Now honestly, have you ever even heard of Raymond Clarence Ewry of Tippecanoe County, Indiana? And yet this amazing athlete won Olympic gold 10 times. His winning streak came after he graduated from Purdue University in 1897.
He moved to New York City and developed a keen interest in the Olympics (they'd only been restarted in 1896). Ewry then decided to try competing in the games. The result: at the 1900 Paris Olympics, he won his first three golds. These were for the standing high jump, the standing long jump, and the standing hop, step and jump.
Ray Ewry didn't stop here. The 1904 Olympics were held in St. Louis, Missouri and he did it again. Three gold medals! Then to Athens in 1906 for the 10th anniversary Olympic Games in which he picked up two more gold medals. His final worldwide competition came at the 1908 games, held in London. You guessed it; he picked up two more gold medals.
These accomplishments in and of themselves should be remarkable enough. In the context of his life, however, they are awe-inspiring. You see, Ray Ewry was a world-class athlete who overcame overwhelming odds. As a young boy in Indiana, Ray had contracted polio. He was given a wheelchair and a heavy brace. He was told by doctors that he would never be able to walk again.
But Ewry didn't buy it. He determined that he would beat the ravages of the disease. Ray Ewry created for himself a series of exercises that rebuilt the strength in his weakened legs. Today, people would probably call these isometric exercises. By any name, they worked amazingly well.
Undeterred by a grim medical diagnosis, Ray willed himself into an ability to accomplish goals beyond anyone's wildest imaging. His fitness strategy didn't just help him to walk, it turned him into the athlete that the French nicknamed "The Human Frog."
Ray Ewry died on Sept. 29, 1937. His name has faded from memory. But I think he teaches us so much. When people tell us that something "just can't be done," he teaches us the power of persistence.
When people encourage us to "just give up," Ewry reminds us that great things are accomplished only by ignoring that advice. And most importantly, this one-time polio patient teaches us that everything is possible with hope.
He really was a hero, not because he won more gold medals than anyone else, but even more for the tenacity with which he lived.
May we be filled with the same determination to reach for the very best in ourselves.
(For a free copy of the Christopher News Note, Being a Good Neighbour, write: The Christophers, 12 East 48 St., New York, NY, 10017; or e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.)
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