Sunday, 05 August 2012 15:45

London 2012 through the Sports and Social Change Lens - A Week One Perspective

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And as if being a "game-changer" in track and field wasn't enough, Pistorius is also a an ambassador for The Sole of Africa - Mine Seeker Foundation, which helps with the detection and removal of land-mines, and those whose lives and communities have been affected.

Although Pistorious did not qualify for the 400m finals, his Olympic moment is a huge step forward - on two "blades"


Cullen Jones - Swimming, USA

















The face of USA Swimming for the past 3 Olympic games has certainly been Michael Phelps. His accomplishments are indisputable as the best ever and he walks away from the competitive arena on his own terms and with a final gold medal performance. But one of the keys to Phelps medal haul in these games were his relay partners, including the Silver medal winning 4x100-meter team that featured Cullen Jones.

The New York born swimmer, is also a key member of the USA Swimming Foundation's national child-focused, water safety program "Make a Splash." Jones has a deep connection the program - when he was 5, he almost drowned at a water park. And once he saw the figures that nearly 6 out of 10 African-American and Hispanic children are unable to swim and African-American children drown at a rate nearly three times higher than their Caucasian peers (Center for Disease Control), he felt compelled to do something about it.

Jones is a part of the 2012 "Make a Splash Tour," visiting six cities around the country to promote and advocate for the availability of free or discounted swimming lessons, water safety education and access to life-saving swimming skills for children regardless of their ethnic or economic background.

The Gold medalist in Beijing 2008 in the 50-meter Freestyle, Jones won an individual Silver medal in that event on Friday, finishing just .20 seconds behind France's Florent Manaudou.

Taylor Phinney - Cycling, USA

Photo by Robert Beck




















While Taylor Phinney may not have won a medal in his second Olympic apperance this week, he did make is parents proud by carrying on a deep family Olympic legacy. Taylor's father Davis Phinney was a US Olympic Cyclist and Bronze medalist in Los Angeles in '84; and his mother, Connie Carpenter Phinney, was a dual Olympian, having won Gold as a cyclist in '84 and competing in Speed Skating for the US in the '72 Winter Olympic games.

But what really makes Taylor's Olympic journey special is the bond he has with father, who is now battling Parkinsons. Together, they ride for the Davis Phinney Foundation, raising money and awareness to combat Parkinsons and teaching people how to continue living well with the disease. The organization and Davis hold "Victory Summit" events which "focus on the things people living with Parkinson’s disease can do today to improve the quality of their lives – from learning about the latest research and treatment options to participating in demonstrations of yoga, speech therapy, exercise programs, and other activities."

Medals and awards are great accomplishments, but Taylor realizes that it's family that got him to where he is today, and his bond with his father goes well beyond the two wheeled tradition that was passed down. This is a great story of how sport can bring people together and be a tool for inspiring others fighting a debilitating disease to stay active and keep moving.

Wojdan Shaherkani - Judo, Saudi Arabia

















No medal, not even a point scored in a Judo match that lasted only 82 seconds. But that's not what Wojdan Shaherkani will remember - and be remembered for -  at the 2012 Olympic Games. Shaherkani, 16, was the first female athlete to compete for Saudi Arabia in history of the Olympic games. And in an Olympics where female athletes have been as in the spotlight as much as any of their male counterparts, this young lady may have left the most significant mark on the games. Granted, there is still much work to be done in many parts of the world for women's rights - especially in the Middle East - but this is definite progress.

The Guardian had a great recap of her story...


Kayla Harrison - Judo, USA






















Another female Judoka was a focal point for attention in these games, and this time it was an American. Kayla Harrison became the first US Olympic Judo Gold medalist (the US Paralympic Judo team had already accomplished that feat in Sydney 2000) and overcame a lot more than just her opponent.

Harrison had shared her very difficult story with the media last November, about being sexually abused by her Judo coach when she was a young teenager. After her family moved to Boston, she found solace and support by returning to the sport of Judo and its deeply rooted principles of discipline and self-respect. With a new coach and a fresh start, Harrison fought not only opponents in the ring, but her demons as well, and came out a champion.

This is a great example of how a sport can change lives; in this case it nearly ruined Kayla Harrison's, but she realized that returning to Judo would provide her with the necessary tools to make positive changes in her own life. And that's worth more than any medal of any color.

Congratulations to Kayla on winning the bigger fight - the one to get your life back.

What will week two of the 2012 Olympics  bring?
We can't wait to find out...

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