Today’s generation often looks towards athletes as both role models and, in some cases even, heroes. Sadly, many of them fail to live up to the public’s expectations of them. Doping and cheating are becoming more and more common place as athletes strive to achieve greater and greater success. Fallen by the wayside in the competitive world of sports seems to be many of the traditions and morals that make an athlete truly note worthy. It is not just how an athlete performs in his or her chosen sport but the way in which they achieve their goals that really matters. Luckily, not all athletes fall into this category. There are still many who do deserve to be recognised and admired for their achievements both in and out of the world of sports. Consider these examples of people who really represent what the world of sports should be.
Lawrence Lemieux was an Olympic sailor who gave up his chance to win a medal in order to save two fellow racers. Lawrence was competing in the Finn Class A sailing race during the Olympic Games in Korea in 1988. In the course of the race winds picked up significantly. As Lawrence passed close to a nearby racer, he noticed two sailors from the Singapore team in the water and in obvious distress. Lawrence who was in position to win a silver medal turned his boat and went to their aid. Once both sailors were aboard his boat he waited until a Korean rescue boat arrived. He then continued his race but finished in 21st. Although he did not make the podium, Lawrence was awarded the Pierre de Coubertin medal. President of the IOC had this to say of Lawrence, “By your sportsmanship, self-sacrifice and courage you embody all that is right with the Olympic ideal.”
Andre Agassi is another great example of a truly great athlete. Once considered one of the bad boys of tennis, Agassi remade his career and came back as one of the greatest players of all time. Andre’s achievements on the court include an Olympic gold medal and eight Grand Slam singles tournaments, but many of his greatest accomplishments were achieved off the court. Andre is considered one of the most charitable athletes of his generation. His charity, entitled the Andre Agassi Charitable Foundation, has raised over $60 million to help children in Nevada. He has participated in numerous events and fund raising campaigns and has personally donated large sums of money to various charities. In 2009, Andre, along with numerous professional athletes, started the Athletes for Hope. In 1995, Andre was given the prestigious Arthur Hale Humanitarian Award for his work.
One of the most inspiring athletes had to be Lance Armstrong. Lance was on his way to becoming a truly great cyclist when he was diagnosed with testicular cancer. The cancer was already in stage three and had spread to his brain, lungs and abdomen. He underwent surgical procedures to remove the tumours in his brain and testicles. Lance also had to undergo chemotherapy. His last procedure was on the 13th of December 1996.
After his ordeal, Lance returned to the world of cycling in 1998. He went on to win an unprecedented “seven” Tour de France Races and has been named the athlete of the year by numerous different magazines and organizations worldwide. However, Lance’s achievements are not only in the world of cycling. He founded the Lance Armstrong Foundation. This charity works to help patients affected by cancer. It provides support and help before, during and after a patient’s treatment. The motto for his charity is “Unity is strength, knowledge is power and attitude is everything”. Lance is also one of the founding members of Athletes for Hope.
Records and medals are wonderful but maybe before we look at an athlete as a hero and a role model we should all look a little deeper. It is not only how a player plays the game but also how they live their lives that make them truly great.