Successful Athletes

persistence; continuing in spite of diffuculty

Jackie Robinson

Jackie Robinson was the first African American to play in the Major League Baseball game in 1947. He was a very successful athlete but he showed a lot of persistence. When Jackie was in University of California, Los Angeles he became the university’s first student to win varsity letters in four sports. However, despite his athletic success, he was forced to leave UCLA because of financial hardship. Then, he moved to Honolulu Hawaii and played semi-professional Honolulu Bears. The season with the bears was cut when US entered to WWII. After he served a part in the army, he started to play baseball professionally. However, Jackie Robinson had many difficulties to become a baseball player. One problem he faced was that he was rejected from the MLB and the society because he was an African American. Since he was an African American he had to play in the segregated African American league. Then, he met Branch Rickey, who was the president of the Brooklyn Dodgers. Since Jackie worked so hard, Rickey supported him and Jackie Robinson joined the Brooklyn Dodgers. This led to many difficulties. He was treated unfairly by some of his team mates, and crowds jeered at Robinson. He also received death threats. The solution for this was to show how successful he was and stay strong. He had an outstanding start in the MLB. He soon became a baseball hero. His team mates supported him and people viewed him differently. The Dodgers won the National League several times with Jackie Robinson and he became the first African American to be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame.

Wilma Rudolph

Wilma Rudolph was the first American woman to win three gold medals at a single Olympic Games who showed a lot of persistence. Wilma was born on June 23, 1940 in St. Bethlehem, Tennessee. She was a sickly child who couldn’t walk well because of polio and she had to wear a brace on her left leg from ages 5 to 12. Since Wilma Rudolph was the 20th of 22 children, her family didn’t have a lot of money or was not able to support Rudolph well. She grew up in the South and attended an all-black school. Because of her leg, she couldn’t join in sports teams at her school. Wilma was also teased by her classmates. As a result, Wilma didn’t give up and practiced walking all the time. Even though polio was a disease that was difficult to cure during 1950s, due to her effort and the help of physical therapy, she was able to overcome the disease. Wilma Rudolph said “My doctors told me I would never walk again. My mother told me I would. I believed my mother.” As she got better with her walking, she worked hard to become the best runner in her high school. Soon, Wilma was qualified for the 1956 Summer Olympic Games in Melbourne, Australia. She won a bronze medal in the sprint relay event at only age 16. And at the Olympics held in Rome, Italy, she set a world record and won 3 gold medals. Therefore, she received several honors including the Associated Press Woman Athlete of the Year Award. This impacted many other African American athletes. She is remembered as one of the fastest women in track and one of the great African-American athletes. Even though Wilma faced many difficulties such as Polio and her disability, she never gave up and later became a champion.

Figure skaters; Tonya Harding and Nancy Kerrigan

Tonya Harding and Nancy Kerrigan are famous for the incident that occurred at Lillehammer, Norway in the 1994 Winter Olympics. Tonya Harding was born in Portland, Oregon, on November 12, 1970. She began skating at the age of 3, and dropped out of high school to focus on skating. She won her first national title in 1991, and became the first woman to complete a triple axel in competition. She won a silver medal at the World Championships and a gold medal at the 1994 U.S. Championships. On the other hand, Nancy started figure skating at the age of 6. She was born on October 13, 1969, in Stoneham, Massachusetts. She won a bronze medal at the 1992 Winter Olympics. Nancy won many regional competitions when she was young. Both were very good at figure skating and competed at the Olympics. They were talented and rivals of each other. Then, during the 1994 Winter Olympics, Tonya was desperate to win the gold medal. So, Tonya hired her ex-husband Jeff Gillooly to injure Nancy’s knee. The injury seriously bruised Nancy’s kneecap and prevented her from participating in the U.S. Championships. For figure skaters, the knee is very important because figure skating requires many movements with the skater's leg. Due to this, Tonya was banned from performing at the Olympic games and was punished. However, despite her injury, Nancy did her best without giving up and earned a silver medal at the Olympics. Therefore, this shows how Tonya differs from Nancy, because Nancy showed more persistence instead of trying to injure the competitor in order to win.

Michael Jordan

Michael Jordan is a former basketball player. He showed persistence throughout his life. Michael Jordan was born on February 17, 1963 in Brooklyn, New York. He grew up in Wilmington, North Carolina and developed a competitive edge at an early age. During his childhood, he was bullied by popular kids because he was an African American. Jordan was scared to tell people about the bullying. Also, he had a hard time trying out for the high school basketball team because he was too short. So he trained by himself for five years. On 1981, he enrolled at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Then, he became the captain of the school’s basketball team. His team won by his effort on the NCAA Division I championships in 1982 with Jordan scoring the final basket that was needed to defeat Georgetown University. Not long after, in 1984, Jordan played in the Olympic basketball game and won a gold medal which were held in Los Angeles. Jordan left college after his junior year to join the NBA, drafted by the Chicago Bulls. He lead the team to win many games and worked hard. While in his second season, he had an injury, but he was breaking a new ground on the 1986-1987 season. The following season, he received his first MVP award from NBA and for four more times on 1991, 1992, 1996, and 1998. In 1992, the Chicago Bulls beat the Portland Trail Blazers to win their second NBA championship. However, on 1993 Jordan had many things on his mind because he lost his father. Two teenagers shot James Jordan, who was his father, during an apparent robbery. Because of this, Michael Jordan retired from basketball. Soon, he returned and rejoined the Chicago Bulls to win the Championships again. He retired again in 1998, but returned. He played for the Wizards for two seasons before retiring in 2003. Finally on 2009, Michael Jordan was honored and inducted to the Basketball Hall of Fame. Still, Jordan is active in other ways such as in businesses and charities. He is also remembered as an NBA legend.

Derrick Rose

Derrick Rose is a basketball star who was named the NBA’s league MVP in 2011. Even though he is a successful player now, he had faced many difficulties such as being rejected by the team, but didn’t give up and showed persistence. Derrick Rose was born on the south side of Chicago by a single mother on October 4, 1988. Since they didn’t have a father, his family was very tight. He had 3 older brothers and a strict and loving mother who took care of him. One or more would pick him up and drop him off at school. He was very talented in basketball and enrolled at Chicago’s Simeon Academy and became one of the country’s best high school players. However, when he went to college, he faced many difficulties. For instance, during his college years, he couldn’t get into the NBA team because the NCAA ordered the school to vacate its 2007-08 seasons. The NCAA report said Derrick Rose elected someone else to take his SAT for him. Even though he was rejected from the team despite his hard work, he didn’t give up. For example, on Rose’s first NBA season, 2008-09, he earned Rookie of the year. He soon led the Bulls to the No. 1 in the Eastern Conference by hard work. However, he had a problem that slowed him down which was his knee injury. His knee injury was serious, so he had to miss the playoffs and 2012-13 season. Still, he is recovering from the injury and hopes to return soon. Even though he is not in a good condition, he keeps on trying. Many people say that he just keeps going and keeps working hard. For example, he appeared in 10 games last year despite his knee injury. Therefore, he showed persistence even though he was rejected and had an injury.