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Is anyone else out there living and breathing the Winter Olympics these days?
It's hard not to get swept up in the excitement of it all. While the jaw-dropping displays of athleticism are enough to get many hooked, for me and my sentimental heart it's all about the emotional back-stories. My kids roll their eyes as I sit on the couch in tears, listening to the personal accounts of injuries, obstacles and childhood dreams. It's incredible what some of these competitors have endured, what they've overcome, to make it to PyeongChang.
If you happen to be building your baby name shortlist, there is plenty of inspiration to be found at the 2018 Olympics. It was hard to narrow it down, but here are a few of my favorite stories so far.
In 2014, Canadian snowboarder Spencer O’Brien finally received a diagnosis for the severe pain and exhaustion that had been plaguing her for the past two years: Rheumatoid Arthritis. "By the time I got diagnosed it had gotten to the point where it was difficult to lift my head off of the pillow and I couldn’t walk down a set of stairs without my hand on the wall," says Spencer, 30, who reveals she also suffered bouts of depression as a result. The diagnosis was a turning point, and after taking over a year off and finding the best medication to treat her symptoms, Spencer is back in top form and will be competing at the 2018 games.
Norweigen skiier Simen Hegstad Krueger's hopes for a medal seemed dashed when he was part of an early crash on the skiathlon course last weekend. Not only did he lose serious time as he untangled himself from his competitors, he had broken a pole in the process. “Here it is my first ever Olympic race, and it starts in the worst possible way,” he later admitted. Incredibly, it turned out to be a race the very determined athlete would win, passing 67 competitors to take home the gold medal.
After competing for Team USA at the 2014 Olympics in Sochi, bobsledder Jazmine Fenlator-Victorian, who has dual citizenship, decided to try to qualify under the Jamaican banner in 2018. She knew it would be an uphill battle - after all, she would be tasked with helping to build the country's first ever women's bobsled team – but was driven by the desire to promote diversity and inclusion at the Games. At a recent press conference, Jazmine was emotional as she explained why it's so important for "little girls and and boys see someone that looks like them... talks like them, has the same culture as them, has crazy curly hair and wears it natural, has brown skin included in different things in this world. When you grow up and you don’t see that, you feel like you can’t do it and that is not right."
Canadian snowboarder Mark McMorris' road to the 2018 Olympic Games was an almost impossible one. After winning a bronze medal in Sochi in 2014, Mark suffered a fall at a 2016 event that left him with a broken right femur. Thanks to grueling rehab, the 24-year-old made an incredibly quick recovery, and was back on the slopes in under a year. Not long after that, he was out riding with his brother when he hit a tree. That accident nearly killed him, leaving him with 17 broken bones and a collapsed lung. Not only did Mark again make a full recovery, he has already picked up another bronze medal in the snowboard slopestyle event in PyeongChang.
(If you're looking for a great name, how about the 2018 slopestyle gold medalist: 17-year-old Redmond "Red" Gerard of Team USA.)
Though it's her first time competing, this is actually the second time U.S. snowboarder Chloe Kim qualified for the Olympic Games. However, while she proved herself technically able for the 2014 Games, being just 13 years old at the time, she was too young to compete. Now 17, Chloe will have a big cheering section in attendance, and while she says it will be "be a good experience to go through such a crazy event with my family," she adds, "But at the same time, I’m very worried, cause it’s the freaking Olympics!" Turns out she didn't need to be worried – after an amazing performance, Chloe picked up the gold medal in the halfpipe event earlier this week. She dedicated the win to her family, and the sacrifices they've made throughout her life to help her chase her dreams.
By now, Lindsey Vonn is likely a household name. However, after countless victories and accolades, the 33-year-old is considered a comeback kid at this year's Games. After reaching the podium at the 2010 Olympics in Vancouver, Lindsay was forced to miss the 2014 Games due to injury – just the latest of many setbacks she's endured throughout her career. Since then, she's been on the road to recovery and is eager to hit the slopes in PyeongChang, likely her last Olympic Games. "Eight years has been a very long time," she says. "Obviously, I was very... disappointed and devastated and frustrated that I missed Sochi. I've been waiting for this for a long time. I'm ready."
Figure skater Adam Rippon was part of the U.S. team that earned a bronze in the figure skating team event last week, making him the first openly gay U.S. male athlete to take home a medal at the Winter Olympics. Adam says he is happy to use his new "celebrity" status to shine the spotlight on issues that impact the LGBTQ community: "I can't tone it down. I'm being me and being myself. I've got so many messages from kids all over the country - I'm getting so emotional thinking about it – I think that's why it's so important. I think as an athlete I use this platform to my advantage. I think it's giving my skating a greater purpose." Freestyle skier Gus Kenworthy, who came out publicly in 2015, is also one of the first openly gay athletes to compete for Team USA.
(If none of these names seem quite right, check out this list: 23 beautiful baby names meaning "strong")
Image via REX USA
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