The Olympics have been fertile ground for myriad inspirational stories. Athletes who pushed the boundaries of excellence against mountainous odds have graced every edition of the Games since 1896.
The Olympics have been fertile ground for myriad inspirational stories. Athletes who pushed the boundaries of excellence against mountainous odds have graced every edition of the Games since 1896. In other words, the Olympics wouldn’t be what they are today without their ability to throw up a story that tugs at your heart.
Here is a list of brave hearts who overcame natural disabilities or injury they suffered during the Olympics.
George Eyser (USA): The American gymnast won three gold, two silver and one bronze at the 1904 St. Louis Olympics. Eyser did so with a wooden leg. His left leg had been amputated after a train accident.
Ray Ewry (USA): One of the greatest athletes in the history of the Games contracted polio in his childhood and a life in wheelchair loomed large. Ewry not only learned to walk; he stormed to eight gold medals over three Games in standing long jump, high jump and triple jump from 1900 to 1908. Had standing jumps not been discarded after 1908, we would still be talking about him.
Karoly Takacs (Hungary): The pistol shooter should have taken part at the 1936 Olympics but was denied a place in the team as selection was only open to military officers. Takacs was a sergeant at that time. The officers-only rule was thrown into the dustbin after the Berlin Games but tragedy struck Takacs in 1938 as he lost his right hand, which he used for shooting, in a grenade explosion during army training. The intrepid Hungarian didn’t give up; he learned to shoot with his left hand. In 1948, Takacs bagged the rapid-fire gold and retained it four years later at Helsinki.
Lis Hartel (Denmark): When equestrian events were thrown open to women in 1952, Hartel jumped at the opportunity. The Dane needed a helping hand to get on and off the horse as she was paralysed below her knees following a polio attack eight years earlier. Nothing could, however, stop Hartel from clinching silver at Helsinki. She also retained it four years later.
Wilma Rudolph (USA): Whatever could wrong went wrong for Rudolph since birth. The 20th child of 22 siblings suffered polio, double pneumonia and scarlet fever. She had to wear a brace on her left leg until she was eight. Rudolph conquered all her physical problems to become a world-class sprinter with the grace of a gazelle. In 1960, the lithe athlete and a mother of a two-year-old child nailed the gold in the 100m, 200m and 4x100 relay to become the first American woman to win three events.
Bill Roycroft (Australia): During the cross-country section of the combined equestrian event in 1960, he fell off his horse to suffer a broken collarbone. The searing pain and the danger of aggravating his injury didn’t prevent Roycroft from completing his routine in show jumping to help Australia win gold.