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The first foreign-born Olympic flag bearer for the U.S. didn’t even compete with his own given name.

Pádraig Mac Domhnaill was born and raised by a family of weight-throwers and strongmen in Ireland. But when he arrived in the U.S. in 1899 at the age of 21, the immigration officials changed his name to "McDonald" instead of the more common spelling of "McDonnell."

As a man who was nearly 300 pounds and clocking in at just about 6 feet 5 inches tall, the newly christened Patrick McDonald knew it was better to keep his head down than correct them — after all, misspelled names were hardly the greatest struggle for Irish immigrants at the time.


[rebelmouse-image 19530955 dam="1" original_size="1000x1596" caption="Photo via "The Olympic Games of Stockholm 1912 Official Report."" expand=1]Photo via "The Olympic Games of Stockholm 1912 Official Report."

McDonald once told a magazine his first warehouse job was hard labor, and after six long years, he joined the New York Police Department.

This certainly wasn’t an uncommon career path for Irish immigrants at the time. But when he wasn't on his beat as Times Square’s Falstaffian traffic cop, McDonald was busy honing his weight-throwing prowess through the Irish-American Athletic Association. Soon enough, his size had earned him the ironic nickname "Babe" as well as a coveted spot among the Irish Whales, an infamous group of like-sized Irish athletes who dominated track and field.

Collectively, the Whales won 25 gold medals between 1896 and 1924, when the newly formed Republic of Ireland entered the Olympics as its own free state.

[rebelmouse-image 19530956 dam="1" original_size="538x365" caption="McDonald's fellow "Irish Whales": John Flanagan, Martin Sheridan, James Mitchell. Photo via Chicago Daily News/Chicago Historical Society/Wikimedia Commons." expand=1]McDonald's fellow "Irish Whales": John Flanagan, Martin Sheridan, James Mitchell. Photo via Chicago Daily News/Chicago Historical Society/Wikimedia Commons.

McDonald won his first Olympic-qualifying championship in 1907 — just as weight-throwing was dropped from the Games.

Still, he was determined to make it to the Olympics someday. So he put aside his hammer and discus, and turned his attention to the shot put. By the time the 1912 Games in Sweden rolled around, he was good enough to take home gold and silver medals for the United States.

After returning as a winner, McDonald continued to work as a traffic cop in Times Square — but even that came with its own reward. He became as well-known for his public personality as a "Living Statue of Liberty" as he was for being an Olympic champion. One reporter noted, "Never in the record of the swirling traffic of autos did any chauffeur ever venture to ignore McDonald’s great bulk. Newsboys pooled their spare pennies to buy him a loving cup."

Still, McDonald kept on training, eager for the chance to win another gold medal for his new home country.

[rebelmouse-image 19530957 dam="1" original_size="1496x1198" caption="Time Square in 1920, when Patrick McDonald was still on the traffic beat. Photo via American Studio, N.Y./Library of Congress Prints and Photograph Division/Wikimedia Commons." expand=1]Time Square in 1920, when Patrick McDonald was still on the traffic beat. Photo via American Studio, N.Y./Library of Congress Prints and Photograph Division/Wikimedia Commons.

With no Olympic Games during World War I, McDonald had to wait eight years to compete again — but once more, it was worth the wait.

It had become a bit of a tradition for the U.S. track-and-field captain or gold medal winners to serve as flag-bearers in the Olympics’ opening ceremony. And since McDonald filled both criteria, it just made sense for him to carry the banner to the 1920 Games in Antwerp — making him the first foreign-born U.S. Olympian to have that honor. The 42-year-old earned another gold medal that year too, making him the oldest Olympic track-and-field champion in history.

[rebelmouse-image 19530958 dam="1" original_size="1024x759" caption="Pat McDonald, second from the left, with his fellow Irish Whales. Photo: Library of Congress" expand=1]Pat McDonald, second from the left, with his fellow Irish Whales. Photo: Library of Congress

McDonald carried the flag once again at the 1924 Paris Games. But that time, he didn’t compete.

He had other responsibilities at home.

McDonald had a family to take care of and new duties as a sergeant for the NYPD (he went on to make lieutenant in 1926 before retiring as a captain in 1946). Besides, he’d already beat the record for oldest track-and-field athlete, and he was only getting older — although he did continue to compete in weight-throwing competitions domestically, winning his 16th and final national title in 1933 when he was 55.

[rebelmouse-image 19530959 dam="1" original_size="1247x1181" caption="A monument to Pat McDonald, built in his hometown of Doonbeg, Co. Clare, Ireland. Photo via The Banner/Wikimedia Commons." expand=1]A monument to Pat McDonald, built in his hometown of Doonbeg, Co. Clare, Ireland. Photo via The Banner/Wikimedia Commons.

McDonald was a larger-than-life figure. But his infectiously positive nature is what made him truly remarkable.

In some ways, his life may sound like the quintessential American immigrant story. But McDonald’s successes were never about wealth or fame — he simply wanted to work hard, do good, and raise a family. And while he was certainly rewarded for his efforts, those rewards came later in life, and they were not his only motivation.

Still, it speaks volumes that Team USA could come together — twice — under the flag as it was flown by a middle-aged athlete born in another country. While his native land suffered through strife and its own violent revolution, McDonald found a new home in a nation of immigrants that welcomed him with open (if misspelled) arms.

When McDonald passed away in 1954, The New York Times said that he had gone through life "with a song in his heart, a twinkle in his eye and laughter ever bubbling within him." And perhaps that was his greatest legacy after all.

This story was produced as part of a campaign called "17 Days" with DICK'S Sporting Goods. These stories aim to shine a light on real occurrences of sports bringing people together.

Leah Menzies/TikTok

Leah Menzies had no idea her deceased mother was her boyfriend's kindergarten teacher.

When you start dating the love of your life, you want to share it with the people closest to you. Sadly, 18-year-old Leah Menzies couldn't do that. Her mother died when she was 7, so she would never have the chance to meet the young woman's boyfriend, Thomas McLeodd. But by a twist of fate, it turns out Thomas had already met Leah's mom when he was just 3 years old. Leah's mom was Thomas' kindergarten teacher.

The couple, who have been dating for seven months, made this realization during a visit to McCleodd's house. When Menzies went to meet his family for the first time, his mom (in true mom fashion) insisted on showing her a picture of him making a goofy face. When they brought out the picture, McLeodd recognized the face of his teacher as that of his girlfriend's mother.

Menzies posted about the realization moment on TikTok. "Me thinking my mum (who died when I was 7) will never meet my future boyfriend," she wrote on the video. The video shows her and McLeodd together, then flashes to the kindergarten class picture.

“He opens this album and then suddenly, he’s like, ‘Oh my God. Oh my God — over and over again,” Menzies told TODAY. “I couldn’t figure out why he was being so dramatic.”

Obviously, Menzies is taking great comfort in knowing that even though her mother is no longer here, they can still maintain a connection. I know how important it was for me to have my mom accept my partner, and there would definitely be something missing if she wasn't here to share in my joy. It's also really incredible to know that Menzies' mother had a hand in making McLeodd the person he is today, even if it was only a small part.

@speccylee

Found out through this photo in his photo album. A moment straight out of a movie 🥲

♬ iris - 🫶

“It’s incredible that that she knew him," Menzies said. "What gets me is that she was standing with my future boyfriend and she had no idea.”

Since he was only 3, McLeodd has no actual memory of Menzies' mother. But his own mother remembers her as “kind and really gentle.”

The TikTok has understandably gone viral and the comments are so sweet and positive.

"No the chills I got omggg."

"This is the cutest thing I have watched."

"It’s as if she remembered some significance about him and sent him to you. Love fate 😍✨"

In the caption of the video, she said that discovering the connection between her boyfriend and her mom was "straight out of a movie." And if you're into romantic comedies, you're definitely nodding along right now.

Menzies and McLeodd made a follow-up TikTok to address everyone's positive response to their initial video and it's just as sweet. The young couple sits together and addresses some of the questions they noticed pop up. People were confused that they kept saying McLeodd was in kindergarten but only 3 years old when he was in Menzies' mother's class. The couple is Australian and Menzies explained that it's the equivalent of American preschool.

They also clarified that although they went to high school together and kind of knew of the other's existence, they didn't really get to know each other until they started dating seven months ago. So no, they truly had no idea that her mother was his teacher. Menzies revealed that she "didn't actually know that my mum taught at kindergarten."

"I just knew she was a teacher," she explained.

She made him act out his reaction to seeing the photo, saying he was "speechless," and when she looked at the photo she started crying. McLeodd recognized her mother because of the pictures Menzies keeps in her room. Cue the "awws," because this is so cute, I'm kvelling.

A simple solution for all ages, really.

School should feel like a safe space. But after the tragic news of yet another mass shooting, many children are scared to death. As a parent or a teacher, it can be an arduous task helping young minds to unpack such unthinkable monstrosities. Especially when, in all honesty, the adults are also terrified.

Katelyn Campbell, a clinical psychologist in South Carolina, worked with elementary school children in the aftermath of the Sandy Hook shooting. She recently shared a simple idea that helped then, in hopes that it might help now.

The psychologist tweeted, “We had our kids draw pictures of scenery that made them feel calm—we then hung them up around the school—to make the ‘other kids who were scared’ have something calm to look at.”



“Kids, like adults, want to feel helpful when they feel helpless,” she continued, saying that drawing gave them something useful to do.

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Photo by Heather Mount on Unsplash

Actions speak far louder than words.

It never fails. After a tragic mass shooting, social media is filled with posts offering thoughts and prayers. Politicians give long-winded speeches on the chamber floor or at press conferences asking Americans to do the thing they’ve been repeatedly trained to do after tragedy: offer heartfelt thoughts and prayers. When no real solution or plan of action is put forth to stop these senseless incidents from occurring so frequently in a country that considers itself a world leader, one has to wonder when we will be honest with ourselves about that very intangible automatic phrase.

Comedian Anthony Jeselnik brilliantly summed up what "thoughts and prayers" truly mean. In a 1.5-minute clip, Jeselnik talks about victims' priorities being that of survival and not wondering if they’re trending at that moment. The crowd laughs as he mimics the actions of well-meaning social media users offering thoughts and prayers after another mass shooting. He goes on to explain how the act of performatively offering thoughts and prayers to victims and their families really pulls the focus onto the author of the social media post and away from the event. In the short clip he expertly expresses how being performative on social media doesn’t typically equate to action that will help victims or enact long-term change.

Of course, this isn’t to say that thoughts and prayers aren’t welcomed or shouldn’t be shared. According to Rabbi Jack Moline "prayer without action is just noise." In a world where mass shootings are so common that a video clip from 2015 is still relevant, it's clear that more than thoughts and prayers are needed. It's important to examine what you’re doing outside of offering thoughts and prayers on social media. In another several years, hopefully this video clip won’t be as relevant, but at this rate it’s hard to see it any differently.