We watch the Olympics in awe of the athlete's incredible talent and drive, but what's even more impressive is what some of our most-loved champions have had to overcome before standing on the podium. From Olympic fairytales to the loss of family, it turns out that--besides their incredibly fit bodies and superhuman drive--the athletes are just like us.
33-year-old gymnast (yes...33) Oksana Chusovitina won her first gold medal in 1990. She is the first female gymnast to compete in five Olympics--and she did that, not only because she loves the sport, but also to save her dying son. Yesterday in Beijing, she won a silver medal in the vault--which at Oksana's age, is unheard of. However, hearing Oksana's story of saving her son's life gave us some insight on what inspires this mom to keep on going.
In 2002, Oksana's son was diagnosed with acute leukemia and was forced to seek treatment in Germany--due to the lack of advanced medical care in her home of Uzbekistan. The story gripped the gymnastics world, and Oksana was offered a spot on the German team: "If I don't compete, my son won't live," she said shortly after his diagnosis. With fans of the sport helping the family pay for treatment, the sport that once saved Oksana from the ills of her communist homeland was now saving her son. At 33, she is twice the age of most of her competitors and a true inspiration to the sport: "I don't know how she does it," said U.S. gymnast Alicia Sacramone. "I'm 20 and my back hurts, my knees hurt, I think I have arthritis." Oksana's body hurts, but she never speaks about pain. Her son is a healthy, happy second-grader now--and when asked when she thinks she'll stop competing, Oksana said: "Maybe in one or two more years...or maybe after London for the 2012 Olympics."
For more inspiring Olympics stories, go to page two.