Julian: Earlier this month, you couldn’t miss all those headlines about Olympic athletes breaking records and winning medals in London. But there were also the stories you didn’t hear about; the tough obstacles some athletes had to overcome on their road to glory.
George Kitchens is one of the top ten long-jumpers in the world. But when George was 12-years-old, his life, his sister’s, and a friend of hers nearly ended in a matter of seconds when attackers invaded his home. George was shot in the chest.
George Kitchens: At that point, I wasn’t dead. So, he shot me in the arm again to see if I was still alive or not and at that point I had to play dead.
Julian: George playing dead possibly saved him and his sister Sheila.
George: Every day, I look at those scars. I have a scar on my chest and a scar on my arm and they remind me of how fortunate I am to be here.
Julian: And what George has been through is all the motivation he needs.
George: I had to make the best of every moment — every experience that I have — because that could have been taken away from me and my family at 12 years old.
Julian: Long jumping came natural to him. Becoming an Olympian was the next step.
George: Everyone out there is physically talented and on any given day they can jump well, but the mental part of it definitely plays a role and that comes from your training, just being prepared from your training.
Julian: George came up short in London, but he is looking ahead. He is already qualified for the World Championships in 2013.
Another Olympian who turned personal tragedy into motivation was 21-year-old Sarah Scherer. She was aiming for gold in the women’s 10 meter air rifle competition. She has to hit the center of that circle, about the size of a pinhead. And she has to hit it 40 times.
Sarah Scherer: I can. I have before and I know I can.
Julian: Sarah started shooting competitively when she was nine, but she wasn’t the first member of her family to make the Olympic team. Her brother Stephen competed in Beijing on the men’s team four years ago.
Sarah: We grew up shooting together. We coached each other.
Julian: Two years ago, Stephen turned the gun on himself, taking his own life. Sarah turned her grief into motivation.
Sarah: He always was pushing me, like, ‘you can do this.’ And he always knew I could shoot perfect scores.
Julian: And those skills lead Sarah to 7th place out of 50 shooters.
She has spent her whole life being tough, in and out of the ring.
Claressa: I train twice, three times a day.
Julian: This dedication earned Claressa Shields a spot at the Olympic Games. But it was her dad’s dream that got her in the ring. Claressa didn’t meet her father until she was 9 years old. He spent nearly her entire childhood in jail.
Claressa: He said, he couldn’t really do nothing. There was nothing for him. He said his dream was to be a boxer. So, when he said boxing was his passion, I decided I would box.
Julian: London’s games were the first where female boxers were allowed to compete and the U.S. team’s hopes were riding on 17-year-old Claressa.
Claressa: It’s not just about making history. I put in so much hard work. I would be very disappointed to go to London and not get a gold medal.
Julian: And she didn’t disappoint. Claressa took home the gold medal in women’s middleweight boxing. Claressa’s father once told her boxing was a man’s sport. She says that was just another reason for her to push harder and be more disciplined.
Claressa: You gotta be or else this sport ain’t the one for you.
Julian: And Claressa’s school district in Flint, Michigan is planning a big gold medal celebration for her next month.