When life hit them hard, these 4 Olympians persevered and hit back even harder.

It's no secret that we all have obstacles we need to overcome in life.

There will always be ups and downs. That we know for sure. But, sometimes, unexpected lefts and rights pop up and try to throw us even more off track. When those types of moments hit, that's when our resolve is truly put to the test.

That's the type of perseverance on full display at one of the world's most celebrated sporting events — the Olympic Games. For years and years, athletes go through blood, sweat, and tears for a few precious moments of pure competition. If anything, that struggle to achieve greatness is what makes sports so dang beautiful.


But some members of Team USA had to endure a few extra hurdles on their way to glory.

Meet four amazing athletes who are incredible examples of perseverance.

And if their trials bring to mind any challenging experience you've gone through — athletic or otherwise — Paramount would love for you to share your story on social media with the hashtag #MyGreatestVictory. It's in honor of their upcoming movie, "Ben-Hur," the story of an iconic character who never gave up despite facing enormous challenges.

1. Lopez Lomong, track and field

Photo by Paul Merca/Wikimedia Commons.

As one of thousands of refugees known as "The Lost Boys of Sudan," Lopez Lomong was kidnapped by soldiers and imprisoned in a brutal camp when he was only 6 years old. They were going to force him to become a child soldier.

With the help of some friends on the outside, Lomong managed to escape. He ended up running for his life for three days and three nights toward a refugee camp in Kenya — a place where he would live for 10 years.

Eventually, Catholic Charities got involved and helped Lomong move stateside. Once he got here, he started running again. But this time, it was to represent his new homeland. He became so good and such an inspiration that, at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, he was honored as the flag-bearer for the United States.

Eight years later, Lomong is still running as strong as ever.

2. Kayla Harrison, judo

Screenshot via Olympic/YouTube.

At the 2012 London games, Kayla Harrison became the first American to win gold in judo. Her journey there, however, started off with a heartbreaking circumstance.

In an interview with ESPN, Harrison opened up about how she was sexually abused for years by her coach, Daniel Doyle, when she was just starting out in the sport. The abuse left deep emotional scars and led to thoughts of suicide.

With support from her mom and a psychologist, Harrison moved to Boston to train in a new environment and, in the process, channeled her experience to become an absolute force to be reckoned with — both on and off the mat. In addition to being a badass athlete, she started a foundation helping other survivors of sexual abuse.

Harrison told ESPN, "There's nothing in this life that's going to be harder than what I've been through already. I may lose. But no one will break me."

Come this August, the entire country will be rooting for her to repeat her Olympic success.

3. Jillion Potter, rugby

Screenshot via World Rugby/YouTube.

Jillion Potter is the definition of perseverance.

In 2010, while playing for Team USA, she got into a fluke accident and broke her neck in a game against Canada. Doctors said she would never play again. But you know what? She came back as strong as ever.

But then another tragedy hit in 2014. She was diagnosed with soft tissue cancer and needed both chemotherapy and radiation to treat it. Again, it didn't stop her from competing in the sport she loves so much. With the support of her loved ones, she beat cancer and was just recently announced as a member of the 2016 team.

In an interview with CNN, Potter sums everything up by relating her experience to her sport: "You get tackled, you always have to get up off the ground, just like in life."

Well said, Jillion!

4. Daryl Homer, fencing

Photo by Marie-Lan Nguyen/Wikimedia Commons.

Daryl Homer is trying to make history by becoming the first American male to win gold in fencing. But he also acknowledges that history isn't quite on his side.

He told the Richmond Times-Dispatch, "I’m from the Bronx and most people from the Bronx aren’t fencing. On top of that, most people don’t see African-Americans fencing. On top of that, there’s still the perception Americans aren’t the leaders in the fencing world."

But none of that has slowed down Homer one bit. Throughout his life, he's persevered to become the absolute best — in life and in fencing. He's a fighter and one that won't back down from a challenge.

In a piece for The Player's Tribune, he said, "To most people, I probably don’t look like a fencer. But on the strip, none of that matters. It’s two people facing off for survival."

These athletes are shining examples of the power of the human spirit.

They dedicated themselves to their ultimate goal and never let any roadblock steer them away. And even if they don't medal at the upcoming games, there's no question that they've already achieved victory.

Have a perseverance story of your own? What are some of the victories you've experienced in your own life?

In honor of Paramount's newest film, "Ben-Hur" — a timeless character who knows a thing or two about determination — Paramount is asking for people to share their stories about rising up and overcoming adversity. They'll share their favorites on their social media channels.

Share the moments, big or small, where you were able to overcome adversity and persevere, with the hashtag #MyGreatestVictory.

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Paramount Pictures Ben Hur

Disney has come under fire for problematic portrayals of non-white and non-western cultures in many of its older movies. They aren't the only one, of course, but since their movies are an iconic part of most American kids' childhoods, Disney's messaging holds a lot of power.

Fortunately, that power can be used for good, and Disney can serve as an example to other companies if they learn from their mistakes, account for their misdeeds, and do the right thing going forward. Without getting too many hopes up, it appears that the entertainment giant may have actually done just that with the new Frozen II film.

According to NOW Toronto, the producers of Frozen II have entered into a contract with the Sámi people—the Indigenous people of the Scandinavian regions—to ensure that they portray the culture with respect.

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Though there was not a direct portrayal of the Sámi in the first Frozen movie, the choral chant that opens the film was inspired by an ancient Sámi vocal tradition. In addition, the clothing worn by Kristoff closely resembled what a Sámi reindeer herder would wear. The inclusion of these elements of Sámi culture with no context or acknowledgement sparked conversations about cultural appropriation and erasure on social media.

Frozen II features Indigenous culture much more directly, and even addressed the issue of Indigenous erasure. Filmmakers Jennifer Lee and Chris Buck, along with producer Peter Del Vecho, consulted with experts on how to do that respectfully—the experts, of course, being the Sámi people themselves.

Sámi leaders met with Disney producer Peter Del Vecho in September 2019.Sámediggi Sametinget/Flickr

The Sámi parliaments of Norway, Sweden and Finland, and the non-governmental Saami Council reached out to the filmmakers when they found out their culture would be highlighted in the film. They formed a Sámi expert advisory group, called Verddet, to assist filmmakers in with how to accurately and respectfully portray Sámi culture, history, and society.

In a contract signed by Walt Disney Animation Studios and Sámi leaders, the Sámi stated their position that "their collective and individual culture, including aesthetic elements, music, language, stories, histories, and other traditional cultural expressions are property that belong to the Sámi," and "that to adequately respect the rights that the Sámi have to and in their culture, it is necessary to ensure sensitivity, allow for free, prior, and informed consent, and ensure that adequate benefit sharing is employed."

RELATED: This aboriginal Australian used kindness and tea to trump the racism he overheard.

Disney agreed to work with the advisory group, to produce a version of Frozen II in one Sámi language, as well as to "pursue cross-learning opportunities" and "arrange for contributions back to the Sámi society."

Anne Lájla Utsi, managing director at the International Sámi Film Institute, was part of the Verddet advisory group. She told NOW, "This is a good example of how a big, international company like Disney acknowledges the fact that we own our own culture and stories. It hasn't happened before."

"Disney's team really wanted to make it right," said Utsi. "They didn't want to make any mistakes or hurt anybody. We felt that they took it seriously. And the film shows that. We in Verddet are truly proud of this collaboration."

Sounds like you've done well this time, Disney. Let's hope such cultural sensitivity and collaboration continues, and that other filmmakers and production companies will follow suit.

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