Monday, August 24, 2009

Championship living in action.

Following up on last week's series about thinking like a champion, post 310 is about Marlon Shirley, a paralympic athlete. One of the fastest amputees in the world, Shirley has not only found a way to become an athletic champion, but he's also become a world-class role model for us all.

Abandoned by his mother at age three, Shirley found a way to survive by living with other kids on the streets of Las Vegas. He eventually found his way into the foster care system, and at age five, he lost his left foot in a lawn mower accident. He was adopted at the age of nine by Kerry and Marlene Shirley who already had three biological children about the same age. A subsequent high school football injury resulted in the further amputation of the lower section of the same leg. Yet, today Shirley owns the paralympic world record in the 100-meter dash, being the only amputee to break the 11-second barrier in that race. Shirley is a member of the USA Track & Field Accommodations Committee and trains at the Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista, Calif. He's a recipient of the San Diego Hall of Fame Best Disabled Athlete Award, the United Nations' Role Model of the 21st Century Award, two ESPY Awards (2003, 2005) and the U.S. Olympic Spirit Award.

Marion Shirley sees something unique in Marlon. "He's very resilient. I don't know if it was something he was born with or something he developed in his childhood - he's just so determined! If Marlon is determined to do something, he just doesn't accept that he's not going to be able to do it. We thought we were adopting a kid with a disability, but it's been anything but a disability."

Shirley attributes his remarkable success to his mindset. He explains, "I have a very different way of dealing with trials and tribulations. It involves just focusing on the future." He resolves to push forward no matter what the obstacle. "There's always a way; there's always something that can be done to overcome adversity." Shirley also surrounds himself with experts who support him in reaching his goals. "I know that I can't necessarily do it by myself. So, it's just a matter of finding the right people to help me."

In addition to competing as a world class athlete, Marlon is very involved in helping his community. He founded a program through the charity Athletes for Education called "Champions for Life" that helps underpriviledged and foster youth learn life principles such as dedication, perseverance, teamwork and goal-setting. He says, "I can talk to them convincingly about these things because I've lived it. Your attitude is either the lock on, or the key to the door of success."

It's worth remembering the writer Harriet Beecher Stowe who said; “When you get into a tight place and everything goes against you ‘til it seems as though you could not hold on a minute longer, never give up then, for that is just the place and time that the tide will turn.”

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