#190 Jumping for joy

Photo by Adam Borkowski, via dreamstime

In 1948 there was probably only one Olympics competitor who won her spot in spite of a major physical impediment. Vancouver-born Shirley Gordon Olafsson was born with a deformed foot. In and out of hospital all through childhood, the shy teen pursued her athletic dreams in spite of skeptical coaches and mocking students.

When a friend convinced her to check out track and field, Olafsson worked her way through the events until she found the one that worked for her, the high jump. To clear the bar she had to jump an extra three inches and always land on her strong right foot. Patients watching from a hospital across the street cheered each time she cleared a height.

By 1943 she was winning ribbons. In 1948 her second-place standing in the Canadian championships won her a shot at the London Olympics. The track and field team named her captain, and she placed 10th in the high jump. For ten years the determined and gifted athlete was ranked among the top six jumpers in Canada.

Olafsson was inducted into the BC Sports Hall of Fame in 2004. In 2008 she participated in the torch relay for the Paralympics Games in China. Anyone closely following the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics might have caught her in that torch relay.

It is people like Shirley Gordon Olafsson who remind us the only insurmountable limitations to our dreams are the ones we place on ourselves.

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2 comments for “#190 Jumping for joy

  1. j
    November 25, 2011 at 7:44 pm

    Are you aware of the 1960 U.S. track and field Olympic Champion, called the “fastest woman in the world,” Wilma Rudolph? She was also a bronze medal winner in the 1956 Olympics. Wilma Rudolph overcame a significant disability caused from polio, (had a twisted leg and had to wear a brace from age 6-9), became a clvil rights women’s rights activist. I’m passing along a Wikipidia link:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wilma_Rudolph

    • December 5, 2011 at 11:45 am

      Wilma Rudolph was one of my heroines as I was growing up, a woman who never let challenges keep her from achieving her goals.

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