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Viral post thoughtfully reexamines Kerri Strug's iconic broken ankle vault at 1996 Olympics

"Yesterday I was excited to show my daughters Kerri Strug's famous one-leg vault...But for some reason I wasn't as inspired watching it this time. In fact, I felt a little sick."

Viral post thoughtfully reexamines Kerri Strug's iconic broken ankle vault at 1996 Olympics

Simone Biles withdrawing from the team final in the Tokyo Olympics and subsequently withdrawing from the individual all-around finals after getting a case of the "twisties" has the world talking. She's received overwhelming support as well as overwhelming criticism for the move, with some praising her for recognizing her limits and others blasting her for not persevering through whatever she's dealing with.

Some people pointed to Kerri Strug, who landed on one foot after vaulting with a broken ankle in the 1996 Olympics to help the U.S. win gold, as an example of the kind of sacrifice an athlete should be willing to make for their country.

Byron Heath shared some thoughts about that fateful day in a viral Facebook post that has been shared more than 370,000 times in less than a day.


Heath wrote:

"This realization I had about Simone Biles is gonna make some people mad, but oh well.

Yesterday I was excited to show my daughters Kerri Strug's famous one-leg vault. It was a defining Olympic moment that I watched live as a kid, and my girls watched raptly as Strug fell, and then limped back to leap again.

But for some reason I wasn't as inspired watching it this time. In fact, I felt a little sick. Maybe being a father and teacher has made me soft, but all I could see was how Kerri Strug looked at her coach, Bela Karolyi, with pleading, terrified eyes, while he shouted back 'You can do it!' over and over again.

My daughters didn't cheer when Strug landed her second vault. Instead they frowned in concern as she collapsed in agony and frantic tears.

'Why did she jump again if she was hurt?' one of my girls asked. I made some inane reply about the heart of a champion or Olympic spirit, but in the back of my mind a thought was festering: *She shouldn't have jumped again*

The more the thought echoed, the stronger my realization became. Coach Karolyi should have gotten his visibly injured athlete medical help immediately! Now that I have two young daughters in gymnastics, I expect their safety to be the coach's number one priority. Instead, Bela Karolyi told Strug to vault again. And he got what he wanted; a gold medal that was more important to him than his athlete's health. I'm sure people will say 'Kerri Strug was a competitor--she WANTED to push through the injury.' That's probably true. But since the last Olympics we've also learned these athletes were put into positions where they could be systematically abused both emotionally and physically, all while being inundated with 'win at all costs' messaging. A teenager under those conditions should have been protected, and told 'No medal is worth the risk of permanent injury.' In fact, we now know that Strug's vault wasn't even necessary to clinch the gold; the U.S. already had an insurmountable lead.

Nevertheless, Bela Karolyi told her to vault again according to his own recounting of their conversation:

'I can't feel my leg,' Strug told Karolyi.

'We got to go one more time,' Karolyi said. 'Shake it out.'

'Do I have to do this again?' Strug asked. 'Can you, can you?' Karolyi wanted to know.

'I don't know yet,' said Strug. 'I will do it. I will, I will.'

The injury forced Strug's retirement at 18 years old. Dominique Moceanu, a generational talent, also retired from injuries shortly after. They were top gymnasts literally pushed to the breaking point, and then put out to pasture. Coach Karolyi and Larry Nassar (the serial sexual abuser) continued their long careers, while the athletes were treated as a disposable resource.

Today Simone Biles--the greatest gymnast of all time--chose to step back from the competition, citing concerns for mental and physical health. I've already seen comments and posts about how Biles 'failed her country', 'quit on us', or 'can't be the greatest if she can't handle the pressure.' Those statements are no different than Coach Karolyi telling an injured teen with wide, frightened eyes: 'We got to go one more time. Shake it out.'

The subtext here is: 'Our gold medal is more important than your well-being.'

Our athletes shouldn't have to destroy themselves to meet our standards. If giving empathetic, authentic support to our Olympians means we'll earn less gold medals, I'm happy to make that trade.

Here's the message I hope we can send to Simone Biles: You are an outstanding athlete, a true role model, and a powerful woman. Nothing will change that. Please don't sacrifice your emotional or physical well-being for our entertainment or national pride. We are proud of you for being brave enough to compete, and proud of you for having the wisdom to know when to step back. Your choice makes you an even better example to our daughters than you were before. WE'RE STILL ROOTING FOR YOU!"

Many people shared Heath's sentiment, with comments pouring in thanking him for putting words to what they were feeling.

We're in a new era where our lens of what's admirable, what's strong, and what's right has shifted. We understand more about the lifelong impact of too many concussions. We have trainers and medics checking on football players after big hits. We are finding a better balance between competitiveness and well-being. We are acknowledging the importance of mental health and physical health.

We are also more aware of how both physical and mental trauma impacts young bodies. Though Kerri Strug pushing through the pain has long been seen as an iconic moment in sports, the adults in the room should have been protecting her, not pushing her through an obvious injury.

And the way this fall of Dominique Moceanu at age 14 was handled is downright shocking by today's standards. She said she never received an exam for it, even after the competition was over. So wrong.

“@Carolinafan0279 @Simone_Biles Nope 👎🏻”

Athletes are not cogs in a wheel, and the desire to win a competition should not trump someone's well-being. Elite gymnasts already put themselves through grueling physical and mental feats; they wouldn't be at the top of their sport if they didn't. But there are limits, and too often in our yearning for a gold medal—or even for a triumphant Olympic story—we push athletes too far.

Now we see some of them pushing back, and knowing what we know now, that's 100% a good thing.


This article originally appeared on 07.28.21

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From political science to joining the fight against cancer: How one woman found her passion

An unexpected pivot to project management expanded Krystal Brady's idea of what it means to make a positive impact.

Krystal Brady/PMI

Krystal Brady utilizes her project management skills to help advance cancer research and advocacy.

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Cancer impacts nearly everyone’s life in one way or another, and thankfully, we’re learning more about treatment and prevention every day. Individuals and organizations dedicated to fighting cancer and promising research from scientists are often front and center, but we don’t always see the people working behind the scenes to make the fight possible.

People like Krystal Brady.

While studying political science in college, Brady envisioned her future self in public office. She never dreamed she’d build a successful career in the world of oncology, helping cancer researchers, doctors and advocates continue battling cancer, but more efficiently.

Brady’s journey to oncology began with a seasonal job at a small publishing company, which helped pay for college and awakened her love for managing projects. Now, 15 years later, she’s serving as director of digital experience and strategy at the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO), which she describes as “the perfect place to pair my love of project management and desire to make positive change in the world.”

As a project manager, Brady helps make big ideas for the improvement of diagnosing and treating cancer a reality. She is responsible for driving the critical projects that impact the lives of cancer researchers, doctors, and patients.

“I tell people that my job is part toolbox, part glue,” says Brady. “Being a project manager means being responsible for understanding the details of a project, knowing what tools or resources you need to execute the project, and facilitating the flow of that work to the best outcome possible. That means promoting communication, partnership, and ownership among the team for the project.”

At its heart, Brady’s project management work is about helping people. One of the big projects Brady is currently working on is ASCO’s digital transformation, which includes upgrading systems and applications to help streamline and personalize oncologists’ online experience so they can access the right resources more quickly. Whether you are managing humans or machines, there’s an extraordinary need for workers with the skillset to harness new technology and solve problems.

The digital transformation project also includes preparing for the use of emerging technologies such as generative AI to help them in their research and practices.

“Most importantly, it lays the groundwork for us to make a meaningful impact at the point of care, giving the oncologist and patient the absolute latest recommendations or guidelines for care for that specific patient or case, allowing the doctor to spend more time with their patients and less time on paperwork,” Brady says.

In today’s fast-changing, quickly advancing world, project management is perhaps more valuable than ever. After discovering her love for it, Brady earned her Project Management Professional (PMP)® certification through Project Management Institute (PMI)—the premier professional organization for project managers with chapters all over the world—which she says gave her an edge over other candidates when she applied for her job at ASCO.

“The knowledge I gained in preparing for the PMP exam serves me every day in my role,” Brady says. “What I did not expect and have truly come to value is the PMI network as well – finding like-minded individuals, opportunities for continuous learning, and the ability to volunteer and give back.”

PMI’s growing community – including more than 300 chapters globally – serves as a place for project managers and individuals who use project management skills to learn and grow through events, online resources, and certification programs.

While people often think of project management in the context of corporate careers, all industries and organizations need project managers, making it a great career for those who want to elevate our world through non-profits or other service-oriented fields.

“Project management makes a difference by focusing on efficiency and outcomes, making us all a little better at what we do,” says Brady. “In almost every industry, understanding how to do our work more effectively and efficiently means more value to our customers, and the world at large, at an increased pace.”

Project management is also a stable career path in high demand as shown by PMI research, which found that the global economy will need 25 million more project managers by 2030 and that the median salary for project managers in the US has grown to $120K.

If you’d like to learn more about careers in project management, PMI has resources to help you get started or prove your proficiency, including its entry-level Certified Associate in Project Management (CAPM) certification program. For those interested in pursuing a project management career to make a difference, it could be your first step.
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