Mom of Olympic Athlete Teaches Incredible Lesson in Perseverance

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What I love most about the Olympics is hearing the human stories behind the amazing athletic performances. Sure, it’s fun to watch people zip around the ice. (Since I can barely stand on skates without wiping out, I find this amazing.) But during the event, we only see them for a few minutes. Learning how they got there, and who was rooting for them as they trained, makes their accomplishments hit home.

I particularly love the stories about the athletes’ moms. Because, sure, it’s the athlete putting in the long hours, recovering from the injuries, and getting back up and trying again. But I can really identify with the sacrifice and the courage it takes to stand on the sidelines and watch your kids do something that seems so hard and takes so much energy.


One mom I admire is Sue Celski, mom of J.R. Celski. J.R. is an American short track speed skater who won two Olympic bronze medals in Vancouver in 2010. But he’s been chasing his dream (pun intended!) since way before 2010. He began skating competitively when he was 4 years old. All along the way, his mom Sue was there to support him. She became “film mom,” making sure to capture all his competitions with her camera. 

When he got good enough to require special training far away from home, she agreed to let him relocate to California at age 14. I can’t imagine how it must feel to let your child make a move like that at such a young age! But that’s a mom’s love -- standing by your child while he makes his way in the world. “We’ve got to make this work” was Sue’s philosophy. “If he believes that much in himself, I believe that much in him too.”

During the Olympic trials leading up to the 2010 Games, J.R. was badly injured. During a crash in the last lap of his race, his right skate sliced into his left leg, requiring surgery, 60 stitches, and 5 months of rehab. He was unsure whether he’d ever compete again. When she tells the story, Sue describes remembering a fall she had (on the ice, ironically) when she was pregnant with J.R. She had almost lost him once, and she wasn’t going to let this injury put him or his dreams at risk. J.R. said to Sue, “Mom, it’s over.” She replied like any mom would. “It’s not over,” she said. J.R. credits her with being “the backbone” that got him rehabilitated in time to compete and win bronze in the Games just five months later.

As moms, we’ve all been there, seen that bump or accident or setback that makes us wonder what our child’s future will hold, if only for a moment. I’ve never had to deal with anything that serious, but I’ve had my share of E.R. visits and I’ve been a witness to heartbreaks big and small. And it’s both empowering and humbling to be the person who gets to tell a child, “It’s not over,” and helps him get back on his feet. That’s our job.

That’s what makes the moms of Olympic athletes special: when the going gets tough, they teach their children to persevere and triumph. And we can all draw inspiration from that.

Watch J.R. and Sue’s amazing story:

How do you teach your kids to believe in themselves?

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