Today I was privileged to represent Hallmark at a WIN for KC women's sports award celebration luncheon. From the current high school athletes, to the coaches and corporate athletes, to the keynote speaker, it was highly inspirational.
The keynote speaker was among the best I've ever heard: Olympic swimmer Amy Van Dyken-Rouen, Who became the first US woman to earn 4 gold medals in a single Olympics in 1996, and went on to win two more golds in 2000. Ironically, it was not Amy's incredible athletic accomplishments that were the most inspiring; she showed up in a metallic purple wheelchair, and explained that her spinal cord was severed in an ATV accident less than a year ago, leaving her paralyzed from the waist down.
Through her talk, which was honest, frank, and frequently hilarious, she talked about her path to the Olympics and how hard-won her achievements have been. It was awe inspiring, particularly when she said that although her life has completely changed since her accident, she is happier now than she was before. She urged us to think about any "walls" in our path as personal, defining moments, and always to find a way over, under, or around them. A theme that she repeated throughout her talk was "Who are you to tell me I can't _______". Essentially, she meant that no one had the power to define her or hold her back; this power was hers alone.
I must admit I wasn't familiar with Amy, probably because her time in the Olympics predated when I learned to swim. I've become up obsessed with watching swimming ever since, but I couldn't fully appreciate it before I myself learned how. So it was a great treat to be so completely taken in by her incredible story.