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Against All Odds: The Top 10 Most Inspiring Athletes of the 2012 Olympic Games

By joslyngray |

Lopez Lomong with South Sudanese children he is helping through his foundation.

Sure, I enjoy the competition, the sweat, and the motivation to get up off the couch and go for a run — but the stories are what truly make the Olympics special for me.

The tales of personal sacrifice, of obstacles overcome, of dreams achieved through not just great genetics but through hours of hard work.

When the media calls these stories “Cinderella stories,” I always find that a little off-putting. Cinderella, essentially, did nothing but luck into having a fairy godmother. Cinderella couldn’t even keep her shoes on, for God’s sake.

There was no fairy godmother for Lopez Lomong, who ran from captivity in Sudan at age six, although he did end up with some pretty terrific foster parents. There are no glass slippers for Sarah Robles, who at 23 is the highest-ranked weight lifter in America (male or female) but can’t get a sponsorship deal because, apparently, strong women aren’t sexy or something stupid like that. And Evelyn Stevens doesn’t need a gilded coach and white horses, thankyouverymuch. She traded her rat-race job as an investment banker for road races, becoming a competitive bike racer all of four years ago.

Hard work. Not letting anything stop you. Not letting people tell you, “you can’t do that.”

These are the stories to tell our children, don’t you think?

Take a look at these ten Olympic athletes from all over the world. In a field crowded with talent and impossible dedication, these men and women stand out as truly inspirational human beings.

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Against All Odds: The Top 10 Most Inspiring Athletes of the 2012 Olympic Games

American cyclist Evelyn Stevens, 29

When Evelyn Stevens was a cubicle-bound investment banker, she bought herself a brand-new, high-tech bike. She hung her purses on it. Then in 2008, her sister Angela convinced her to enter an off-track bike race, and she won. Which was fun.

Ms. Stevens attended her first bike racing clinic a few months after that, and started entering races. In 2009, she chucked her New York apartment and rat-race job and focused solely on training.

"So often, people want to put people in boxes. Just try. If you fail, you can fail and fail and fail, and that's how you learn to get better," she told ESPN.

Photo Credit: Steve Ryan

(Photo Credit: Lopez Lomong Foundation)

Read more from Joslyn at Babble Pets and at her blog, stark. raving. mad. mommy. You can also follow her on Facebook and Twitter.

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About joslyngray

joslyngray

joslyngray

Joslyn Gray is the mother of four children with a variety of challenges ranging from allergies to ADHD to Asperger Syndrome. She writes candidly and comedically about this and her generally hectic life on her light-hearted personal blog, stark. raving. mad. mommy.. Read bio and latest posts → Read joslyngray's latest posts →

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