When life hit them hard, these 4 Olympians persevered and hit back even harder.
True
Paramount Pictures Ben Hur

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.

Photo by Brian Wertheim on Unsplash

Politics has always been a mixed bag of genuine discussions about governance, inane partisan bickering, and ongoing struggles for power. As much as I wish we could engage in the first more often, it feels like politics in America has become far more of the latter.

Within those partisan power struggles, the language of politics gets skewed and molded to fit specific purposes. Sometimes, phrases are used as dog whistles calling on people's prejudices. Far too often, the manipulation of words and their meanings—political rhetoric—renders certain terms meaningless as they get tossed around without nuance or context. Ultimately, the repeated use of certain terminology ends up destroying discourse instead of adding to it.

This is by no means an exhaustive list, but here are 10 terms I'd love to see us flush from American political discussions:

1. "Real Americans"

There's no excuse for anyone ever using this term. To call certain people "real Americans" implies some kind of defining characteristic that some Americans have and some don't, which is the complete opposite of the country's diverse reality. And who would get to determine that definition, anyway? Do we go by majority? A full 82% of Americans live in urban areas. Does that mean city people are "real Americans" and the rural minority are not? Obviously, that's ludicrous—just as ludicrous as the idea that Americans in diners talking about the Bible are "real Americans." There's simply no such thing.

Keep Reading Show less
Courtesy of Creative Commons
True

After years of service as a military nurse in the naval Marine Corps, Los Angeles, California-resident Rhonda Jackson became one of the 37,000 retired veterans in the U.S. who are currently experiencing homelessness — roughly eight percent of the entire homeless population.

"I was living in a one-bedroom apartment with no heat for two years," Jackson said. "The Department of Veterans Affairs was doing everything they could to help but I was not in a good situation."

One day in 2019, Jackson felt a sudden sense of hope for a better living arrangement when she caught wind of the ongoing construction of Veteran's Village in Carson, California — a 51-unit affordable housing development with one, two and three-bedroom apartments and supportive services to residents through a partnership with U.S.VETS.

Her feelings of hope quickly blossomed into a vision for her future when she learned that Veteran's Village was taking applications for residents to move in later that year after construction was complete.

"I was entered into a lottery and I just said to myself, 'Okay, this is going to work out,'" Jackson said. "The next thing I knew, I had won the lottery — in more ways than one."

Keep Reading Show less
via wakaflockafloccar / TikTok

It's amazing to consider just how quickly the world has changed over the past 11 months. If you were to have told someone in February 2020 that the entire country would be on some form of lockdown, nearly everyone would be wearing a mask, and half a million people were going to die due to a virus, no one would have believed you.

Yet, here we are.

PPE masks were the last thing on Leah Holland of Georgetown, Kentucky's mind on March 4, 2020, when she got a tattoo inspired by the words of a close friend.

Keep Reading Show less

When your party and its leader are plagued by accusations that they support white supremacists, it's probably best to avoid staging large events with symbols reminiscent of those used by the Third Reich.

The Republican Party failed to do that at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) last weekend. Instead, the main stage at the event was in the shape of the Othala rune, a symbol used interchangeably with the swastika in Nazi Germany.

The conference was held at the Hyatt Regency in Orlando, Florida.

Keep Reading Show less