Empowering the champion within

I haven’t written a blog post here in eight months, partly because I was working on Special Olympics Ontario 2016 Provincial Spring Games and on a report on CFC and TrueSport Report: Sport and belonging for Community Foundations of Canada. So imagine my surprise when I found that the last blog post is about why it’s ok – and important- to encourage everyone to participate in and experience the transformative power of sport. Seems like there’s a theme to my year.

powerlifting medal presentation

During Special Olympics Provincial Spring Games this past week-end I met truly gifted athletes who, without the additional support and opportunities provided by Special Olympics, would never have discovered their gift. It reminded me:

  • Look past the first impression – not just at this event, but always – to see each person’s effort, intent and unique talent.

I also met athletes whose performance was clearly not as polished as others but who were just as proud of their efforts and personal bests as those on the podium. I saw teammates in the stands cheer more loudly for friends on the podium than they would for themselves.

  • Couldn’t we all use a little more pride in our efforts and in our teams?
  • Don’t we all deserve to feel like we belong?

As one athlete was leaving a venue sporting a shiny new medal, a police officer told him: “You’re a champion.” The athlete replied “Yes, I am a champion. Would you like my autograph?” The officer said he would, so the athlete took out a piece of paper and a pen and used the officer’s back to scrawl his signature. The athlete told the officer “You take that home and frame it. Tell people you met a champion.” The signature was a scrawl – barely better than a toddlers’  – from grown man who undoubtedly encounters challenges in his everyday life that most of us can only dream of but he felt ten feet tall. He had pride and goals and dreams of qualifying for nationals.

  • Shouldn’t we all seek the champion in others and in ourselves?
  • How can we empower others to feel like champions in all aspects of our personal and professional lives?
  • How can we strive for the authenticity, presence and dedication found in Special Olympics athletes?

Thank you Special Olympics Ontario for the extraordinary privilege of working with you this year and the gift of connecting with your athletes.

rhythmics gymnastics


Published by Dominique O'Rourke

Public Affairs professional, City Councillor, MA Leadership graduate, problem solver and lifelong learner.

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