August 14, 2012: FAITH – FOCUS – FINISH: A Race of Total Commitment

Success doesn’t make champions – challenges do. ~ Al Joyner, 1984 Olympic Gold Medalist

What are you not allowed to believe in, dream of, reach for, or aspire to? Where must you walk, sprint, or draw the line? Why are some aspirations so far-fetched to contemplate? Who says you must limit your physical and mental abilities and in so many ways? Are you imposing these restrictions on yourself? How deep is your belief system in your gifts? Are you focused and committed to your journey? No matter the vocation you take in life, with all these apprehensions in mind, it is fine to be sensitive, diplomatic, and gentle. It is another thing though, to turn down a chance entitled to explore, achieve, inspire, and endure.

Every 4.2 seconds around the globe, a champion is born. Every minute of every hour one of those champions envisions a dream larger than life. And every four years, presented through the Olympic Games, we get to witness the evolution of those dreams become radiant realities. For the 30th time in world history, we continue to be mesmerized with the gratitude and glamor of the modern day Summer Olympic Games. From America, Asia, Africa, Australia, and Europe, athletic champions unite biennially to compete, contend, and characterize their strengths, proficiencies, visions, and resolutions. Inspired by the symbolic declarations of blue, yellow, black, green, and red, the Olympic Games seem to remind us time and again what we are made of regardless of ethnicity, creed, or culture; what we can achieve with a single seed of faith; what we can aspire to when committed, focused, and ready; and how we can permeate those ideals into our individual daily lives.

American Sprinter, Manteo Mitchell, recently demonstrated to the world what it means to overcome fear, focus with faith, and finish with fortitude. A native of North Carolina and graduating “superstar” of Western Carolina University, Mitchell continues to bolster his civic obligations in all that he aspires; from being a USA team member taking home the gold in the Men’s 4×400 meter relay at the 2012 IAAF World Indoor Championship – to now assisting his team members qualify for the gold medal in the current 2012 Summer Olympic Games.

Holding his personal best past record of 21.13 [indoors] and 20.43 [outdoors], he realized during this seasons semi-final 1,600 meter relay that perhaps he had embarked upon his greatest athletic challenge ever – finishing 200 meters [mid-race], in front of the entire world, in 45 seconds – and on a broken leg. Extraordinarily and even after breaking his left arm as a high school football superstar, he was resolute in not letting any challenge hold him back. Injured but persistent, Mitchell was determined to reach the finish line of his portion in an effort to pass the baton to his team-mate, Joshua Mance. He knew that doing so would make it possible for the USA to take home the gold medal.

During a brief interview, when asked what he was pondering on in the midst of that very challenging moment when he felt his left fibula literally break, he stated one repetitive and self-inspiring mantra, “Faith, Focus, Finish.” Winning for the team was all that really mattered in that one brief minute of clarity. [Source: AP]

Like many of the most competitive athletes and some of the fastest men in world history, from Thomas Burke [1896], Harold Abrahams [1924], Jesse Owens [1936], James Hines [1968], Carl Lewis [1984 Olympian of the Century], Maurice Greene [2000] to Usain Bolt [2008] – Manteo Mitchell [2012] is committed to success. More importantly, his unyielding faith in his abilities and courage of conscious conviction, keep his eyes on the prize – prevailing with dignity, sportsmanship, and above all, gratitude. Being a champion in the Olympic Games is indeed an honor and commitment just as being a champion in the race of life is a responsibility; we MUST show up and rise to the occasion.

In an exclusive interview with Oprah Winfrey, comprised of an array of talented former Olympians, Carl Lewis reminded us that, “Talent is a responsibility and we should expect excellence.” Bart Conner, former American gymnast and 1979 World Champion on the parallel bars diligently stated, “The Olympics is the great leveling field of life. There’s only one way to the top of the podium at the Olympics, and that’s hard work, focus, and determination. Whether you come from the ghetto or whether you come from royalty, there’s only one way to stand on top of the podium.” When Mary Lou Retton, former American gymnast and Olympic gold medalist, was asked what distinguishes winners and losers she simply said, “Passion and mental focus.” Janet Evans, former American competitive swimmer and Olympic gold medalist in both 1988 and 1992, reminisced on the moment she handed off the Olympic Torch to Mohammed Ali – an instant of momentous merit.

“No matter what, when you see a person that is defined as an Olympian, you know – the price that person has paid, the hours they put in, and that this is a person who stands on that podium because of one word – EXCELLENCE.” Oprah Winfrey

Just as the Olympic Torch is passed on and over time, from one great champion to another, we must continue to pass on the torch of encouragement to our fellow brothers and sisters. Though the Flame has been an Olympic symbol since 1928, the Torch wasn’t introduced until 1936 at the Summer Olympic Games. Its meaning signifies harmony, goodwill, and the bravery of the athletes, which in essence, pushes us to aim higher, dig deeper, be better. Not surprisingly, the Olympic Motto, Citius, Altius, Fortius, is a Latin expression meaning Faster, Higher, Stronger; and as a united people, we are.

“I don’t care where you’re from or what your religious beliefs are or what your background is – excellence matters.” Bart Conner

The invention of excellence begins within each of us. No matter how high we can jump, how fierce our speed, or how swift we can swim, without the exercise of faith we cannot focus, and without the execution of focus – we cannot finish. We must be totally committed to our faith and to the attention and energy we create and supply our inner selves with every day.

As Champions continue their quest for excellence, history continues to write itself, and we continue to bear witness to countless Olympic Games to come, we will come to appreciate the single conviction that when we are able to see the best in others, it ultimately inspires the very best in us. It’s never going to be easy but whatever it is you desire – commit, focus, and finish strong.

Love and Light for your Tuesday.

The most important thing in the Olympic Games is not to win but to take part, just as the most important thing in life is not the triumph but the struggle. The essential thing is not to have conquered but to have fought well. ~ The Olympic Creed

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