Category: Famous Sportstars

Pamela Shriver

Pamela Shriver: Olympic gold medalist.

Born: July 4, 1962

As an Olympic gold medal winner and dyslexic, Pam Shriver knows how important sports can be in a child’s life.  More than 25 years ago she started a charity to raise money to help children learn more, both in the classroom and on the tennis court.  Today, she hosts an annual tournament near her hometown of Baltimore for the express purpose of helping kids.

When we first started, all the proceeds went to cystic fibrosis research.  And then started to branch out and want to help more charities give out grants to different children’s related charities mostly.  So while we still give out grants cystic fibrosis research, we help everything from homeless shelters to literacy charities who help kids learn how to read better.

While the focus of her charity has changed through the years, along with the game of tennis, some things will always remain the same.

You know what is always the same is the mental side and your ability to handle pressure and the big moments.  All the great champions can embrace the biggest moments and still produce.

All the great champions can handle pressure, whether its 20, 30, 50 years ago or today.

Larry Zbysko

Larry Zbysko: professional wrestler.

I was totally brainwashed by my childhood idols -  comic book heroes like Superman, the Lone Ranger,  and one of my all-time favorites, Zorro.  There was no doubt in my mind that saving the helpless from injustice, thwarting evil and winding up with the beautiful damsel in distress was what life was all about.  In fact, the first thing I did to my first house was put in a secret door so I could be just like Don Diego.  Man, was I screwed up.  Nevertheless, by the time I was twelve I knew what I was destined to become.  I was going to be a hero.

Zbysko was still in his teens when he met the man who would make his dreams come true:  Bruno Sammartino.

There was no doubt in my mind that I could achieve my childhood dream if I emulated this guy.  I’d protect the weak, stop evil in its tracks and fly above the real world like Clark Kent.  That’s right, I was going to become a professional wrestler.

Zbysko’s dream came true just a few years later when, at 21, he won his first wrestling match.

The fans went berserk, blowing the roof off the arena.  I was victorious—in just seventeen seconds.  It couldn’t have happened any other way:  Bruno’s protege has just exploded onto the scene.  Feeling the energy, the emotional outbursts of thousands of people in unison, I was hooked.  I began to live to pop crowds.  And I was never nervous again.

Dan O’Brien

Dan O’Brien: Olympic decathlete.

Born: July 18, 1966

I call myself a chameleon.

As a child, all Dan O’Brien thought about was fitting in.  However, he now praises his parents for helping get past his mistakes in the classroom to focus on his strengths in sports.

As a young child, I was never a crier. I never cried to get my way, or even when I was in pain.

I think what my parents did was perfect. They were strict, concerned about my safety and held me back just a little.

As a young athlete, it was first about having fun; then it was about winning.

Today he strives to get other youngsters interested in sports and fitness.

Helping Crayola inspire families to get outside and get creative is what this record is all about.  I took the Outdoor Challenge because I care about kids and I want to see them lead healthy and happy lives.

He reminds all of us of a few keys to success in any arena of life.

The only way to overcome is to hang in.

If you never give up, you’ll be successful.

Take pride in exactly what it is you do and remember it’s okay to fail as long as you don’t give up.

Stan Wattles

Stan Wattles: Indy race car driver.

Born: July 24, 1961

It’s my father’s fault I love racing.  He used to race time trials in a Jaguar XKE at Lime Rock. He took me for a couple of laps around it when I was about 5 years old. It’s steep uphill and down with sharp turns, left and right, an incredible roller coaster to a child of that age. I never forgot that ride. I was back again and I was hooked.

Eventually, racing became Wattles’ career.

I’d always talked about going racing.  He saw how I worked with children and told me I had a choice; go get certified as a special-ed teacher or go and check out this racing thing.

For Wattles, being dyslexic is no problem on the race track.

Fortunately, in oval racing you have walls on either side of you and the track turns only one way. I have no problem with left or right, up or down, depth perception or comprehension today. I don’t have problems with road courses, either.

Wattles uses his fame as a racer to encourage kids to do their best.

I try to meet the kids and give them a talk about where I’ve come from and what I’ve done, how reaching your goal is possible, and I think they take with them the message that they can be anything they want to be.

Chris Boardman

Chris Boardman

English cyclist and Olympic Gold Medalist.

Born: August 26, 1968

Chris Boardman loves to ride fast.  And well he should.  His cycling ability won him a Gold Medal in the 1992 Summer Olympics.  He has also broken the world hour record several times and has been awarded the much coveted yellow jersey during three Tour de France races.  His nickname (“The Professor”) refers to his eye for detail and precision.  The irony of his nickname is not lost on Boardman, who did not do well in school and was particularly uncoordinated, especially for a future Olympian.

I didn’t really enjoy school and couldn’t wait to leave. I was always particularly hopeless at Sports Day; all that running whilst balancing eggs on spoons.

It was not until high school, when he discovered cycling, that Boardman began to show his potential for greatness. After winning several races in his junior and senior years, he began training for the Olympics.  Throughout his career, that has taken him, literally, up and down many mountains, he has kept his eye focused on success.  While retired now from cycling, he is still in great demand as a motivational speaker.

People get excited when they believe they can succeed, everyone can understand and measure ‘better than here and now’. Best on the other hand is an aspirational destination that you can’t be sure if you will reach, it also signifies an end point, nowhere else to go… I believe in better.

Billy Blanks

Billy Blanks - famous dyslexic

Billy Blanks - famous dyslexic

Billy Blanks: actor and creator of the martial art Tae-Bo.
Born: September 1, 1955

Billy Blanks learned to fight long before he created his own martial art form.

I was born the fourth of 15 children to poor African-American parents. The streets were pretty mean where I grew up in Erie, Pa., and I was placed in special education classes because of my dyslexia that went undiagnosed. I had to make my own opportunities and teach myself so that I could get ahead. My wife had to read everything for me. When I was acting, I would have her read and coach read me the whole script; I would memorize everyone else’s lines along with mine.

Today things are much different.

I have my own home office with two computers in there now. I have a Mac laptop — my wife and I each have one — that I take on the airplane with me when I travel. I’m always trying to design new Tae-Bo techniques. We’re going to upgrade all the computers and software soon to a whole new system. My office has top-of-the-line digital equipment.

He is in the business of helping others achieve the success he has had.

When I speak to people I tell them the most powerful thing for me in the world is words and what I say out of my mouth goes back into my ears and makes me think about what I’m going to do. So I always tell people first and foremost, watch what you say because you’re going to be what you said.

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