Of all the storylines surrounding Utah athletes in the 2012 London Olympics, it
would be hard to find one more compelling than 27-year-old BMX racer Arielle
Martin, a Lone Peak High School and Brigham Young University alum.
In the year leading up to the 2008 Beijing Olympics, the Cedar Hills native was
widely regarded as the best woman racer in the world and a favorite to medal in
the event. Tragically, in the world championships that year in Taiyuan, China,
she took a nasty spill and failed, by the narrowest of margins, to even make
the U.S. Olympic team.
Talk about heartbreak. Years of hard work, incredible sacrifice and Olympic dreams
were shattered in just a few seconds. She was understandably devastated, and
few would have blamed her if she – like many people would under similar circumstances
– had quit and let her dream die in the dirt.
But Martin is not most people.
Just as she has done after every bike crash since she was a toddler, she picked
herself up – and her Olympic dream rose right along with her. It was rekindled as she persisted through the pain and disappointment and kept on training. Watching others on the medal stand in Beijing added even more fuel to her competitive fire.
Now, four years after missing out on Beijing, Martin is making her Olympic debut in
London and is one of the favorites for a medal. But however she fares on the world stage, she is already a champion in my book. Like most successful people in life, she has learned that success comes not from never failing but in learning from those failures and in persisting in the pursuit of excellence.
That was certainly novelist J.K. Rowling’s emphasis during her 2008 address at Harvard, where she spoke candidly about the agonizing failures that preceded her amazing success – about being a penniless, divorced single mother on welfare whose manuscript for her first Harry Potter book was rejected by 12 publishers.
“You might never fail on the scale I did,” she told the graduating class. “But it is
impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all – in which case, you fail by default.”
Another example is Michael Jordan, who was cut from his high school team but persisted
and went on become the greatest basketball player of all time.
“I have missed more than 9,000 shots in my career,” Jordan famously remarked. “I
have lost almost 300 games. On 26 occasions I have been entrusted to take the game-winning shot, and I missed. I have failed over and over again in my life, and that is why I succeed.”
And Rowling and Jordan are not alone.
In 1968, swimmer and gold medal favorite Mark Spitz failed to win a single individual
race in Mexico City; four years later, at the Olympics in Munich, he won seven and set seven world records in the process. More than a thousand restaurant owners said no to KFC founder Harland David “Colonel” Sanders before he received a single yes to his chicken recipe. Walt Disney was fired by a newspaper because of a “lack of imagination” and “no good ideas.” And Henry Ford failed at several business ventures before launching Ford Motor Company.
Which brings us full circle to London, where 530 U.S. Olympians will represent our country and compete on sports’ largest stage. Like Arielle Martin, most of them are no
stranger to setbacks and disappointment. But even though they may have lost a time or two, they are shining examples of persistence and the human spirit.
They are a reminder that life, as the late LDS Church President Gordon B. Hinckley stated, “is like an old time rail journey … delays, sidetracks, smoke, dust, cinders, and jolts, interspersed only occasionally by beautiful vistas and thrilling bursts of speed. The trick is to thank the Lord for letting you have the ride.”
Today, I join with you in saluting our U.S. Olympians on their journey, and in
thanking them for allowing us to come along for the ride.
Sen. Orrin G. Hatch, R-Utah