September 8, 2010

Olympic Medalists, Including Apolo Ohno, Speak on Success and Hard Work

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Three Olympic gold medalists — Apolo Anton Ohno, April Holmes and Steve Mesler — shared the inspiration of their success with Cornell students at a panel on Wednesday in the Carrier Ballroom at Statler Hotel. Using their own stories as examples, the athletes encouraged members of the audience to pursue their dreams and to share their successes with the surrounding community.Ohno, an eight-time Olympic medalist in short track speed skating, said he believes that all high-performance athletes who work equally as hard share the prestige of ranking in the top one percent of athletes. The important thing to pay attention to is how they stay at the top one percent, Ohno said. “Hard work and determination are crucial to success,” Ohno said. “Also, you have to make the right decisions for yourself.”The event emphasized community service. “It is very important to give back to the community,” Ohno said.Holmes, the world’s fastest female amputee, spoke first at the event, beginning with the struggles she went through following a train accident eight years ago that resulted in the loss of her left leg below the knee. Holmes recounted how she was able to recover, create goals and eventually achieve them.“It is very important to share your success with other people,” Holmes said, as she passed her gold medal from the 2008 Paralymic Games around the room. “I didn’t get here by myself, so I pass my medal around everywhere I go. I got here with support of those around me.”Apart from exerting herself on the track, Holmes said she strives to create a positive impact in her community through charitable work. She started a non-profit organization called the April Holmes Foundation to help people with physical or learning disabilities.“It is important for people to learn to give back to their communities no matter what your team or your dream is,” Holmes said. “It is important to give back in order to make their communities better, to make the world a better place.”Mesler, the 2010 Winter Olympic Gold medalist in bobsledding who won the first American Olympic Championship in 62 years, stepped up next to relay his own story of success.“I was trained five years as a track athlete,” Mesler said. “I wasn’t ready to give up competition and sports after college, so I talked to the [U.S. Olympic Committee] and began to learn how to bobsled.”In light of how his own career unfolded, Mesler urged students to explore different possibilities and follow their passions.“Sometimes you graduate and you might end up not doing the same thing that you study at school,” Mesler said. “But that’s okay. You can find your own success. You just have to believe in yourself.”Like Holmes, Mesler stressed the importance of channeling the energy of success back into the community.“When you get into a school like Cornell, you are bound to succeed,” Mesler said, “Be that person you would want to be inspired by. No matter what you do, kids are going to look up to you just as you looked up to others who were successful. Be that inspiration you wanted.”The event was part of a tour of colleges around the country sponsored by the professional services firm Deloitte, a sponsor of the U.S. Olympic Committee. The athletes will go on to speak at University of Texas, Austin, Georgia Tech, Northwestern University, Columbia University, Harvard University and the University of California, Los Angeles in the coming weeks.“Deloitte believes that the athletes share core values of the company, which are community, relentless training and high performance.” said Laura Eilts, the midwest region community involvement leader at Deloitte. “These athletes show you how they achieved their dreams and what they do with that. They use their success to inspire others.”“We usually associate athletes only with sports. It’s important to know that they know the significance of giving back to the community and helping others,” Jodie Chang ’13 said. “Prior to coming to Cornell, I did a lot of community service at an organization but I haven’t done as much since I came here. After listening to the athletes, I will definitely take a more active approach from now on.”

Correction: An earlier version of this story imprecisely described Deloitte. It is, in fact, a professional services firm.

Original Author: Jackie Lam