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10 Lessons in Perseverance that Olympic Athletes Can Teach Us


It is said that just making it to the Olympics is a sign that you're a winner. As the 2016 Summer Olympic Games begin, some of the world's best athletes come to Rio to compete against one another for the gold. While most of us will never be world class athletes, there is still a lot we can learn from Olympians. Some of the top lessons in perseverance:

1. Believe in your dream, no matter what other people think.

South Korean archery champ Im Dong-hyun set two world records in 2012. He is also legally blind. He competes without corrective eyewear, saying that he actually shoots better without glasses.

2. Look for great mentors in the most unlikely places.

Tegla Loroupe is a record-winning runner, but she is not competing in the Olympics. Instead, she is the leader of a group of 10 displaced athletes who are competing as the Refugee Olympic Team. Tegla was discouraged from running when she was growing up because she was female and not a part of the dominant running tribe in Kenya. Yet, she has set up a training camp for displaced athletes and helped them get to the games. "I was nowhere," said displaced Sudanese runner Paulo Amotun Lokoro. "Now, I am somewhere."

3. Do what you can where you are with what you have.

Abebe Bikila of Ethiopia became the first Sub-Saharan athlete to with a gold medal in 1960. He also did it barefoot. He was a late addition to the Olympic team, so there were no shoes that fit him. He competed anyway and set a world marathon record.

4. Ultimately, be in competition with yourself.

When he competed in the 2000 Olympic games, Eric Moussambani became a legend -- for winning his swim race with the slowest time in Olympic history. It's his backstory that is most extraordinary. Eight months before the Olympics, he didn't know how to swim. His arrival at the games was the first time seeing an Olympic pool. While he struggled, he was also the only person to complete the race.

"A healthy self-esteem comes from exceeding one's own expectations, not the expectations of others," says Philip Baese, MD, the chief of the Division of Child Psychiatry for University of Utah Health.

5. Find role models to provide inspiration.

Lolo Jones grew up in poverty, but her incredible skill as a runner brought her to the 2012 Olympics. She said that her single mother's hard work drove her to work harder. "I definitely do not think I'd be going for this dream had I not seen her pick herself up so many times and keep fighting for us," she told Yahoo News.

6. Know it's okay to ask for help.

Five-time gold medalist Allison Schmitt is a stunning success in the pool. But, when she began to feel depressed after the 2012 games, she knew she needed help. Now, she talks to other athletes about the danger of depression and lets them know that they are not alone.

7. Have the courage of your convictions.

Boxer Teofilo Stevenson repeatedly turned down multi-million dollar offers to leave his native Cuba and compete with other national teams. He repeatedly refused to leave his country, saying that it was the place he was born and the place he loved. He became a national hero in Cuba after winning gold medals in 1972, 1976 and 1980.

8. Don't let fear stop you.

Greg Louganis struck his head during the preliminary section of the diving competition in the 1988 Olympics, requiring temporary sutures. Despite fear of another head injury, he went on to compete a half hour later and performed a near-perfect dive.

9. Know discomfort and pain are temporary.

In 1996, the US team was trailing behind the Russians when it was time for Kerri Strug to perform the vault. However, when she landed her first try, she over-rotated her ankle, causing tremendous pain. Knowing that her team's standing depended on her, she attempted the vault again. This time, she came down perfectly, scoring a 9.712 and the gold.

10. Don't let your limitations define you.

Athletes with physical disabilities usually perform in the Paralympics, an athletic competition that occurs at the same time as the Summer Games. Amputee Natalie Du Toit, however, decided that she preferred to compete in the mainstream games. Du Toit became the first female amputee to compete in the able-bodied Olympics and won the Laureus World Sportsperson of the Year with a Disability.

No matter what stands between you and your goals, perseverance can help you continue to push forward.