Through my experiences writing about some of the greatest athletes the sports world has ever known, I’ve learned that greatness doesn’t happen by chance. Sometimes it’s the ability to do the “Right Thing” at the “Right Time” that makes one truly great.
Take Olympic gymnast Jordyn Wieber for instance; at age 17, she defined greatness through her actions at the highest level of competition. The high school senior from DeWitt, Mich., entered the 2012 London Olympics as Team USA’s main hope for a gold medal in the Women’s All-Around Competition.
And why wouldn’t she be the center of attention? She was a proven winner in the sport. Wieber had just won gold at the 2011 World Championships in Tokyo. In fact, she won the first All-Around gold of her gymnastics career back in the 2006 Junior Olympics at the age of 11.
On July 31, Wieber put her years of tireless training to the test in London at the qualifying rounds for the Women’s All-Around Finals. Her skill on multiple rotations, ranging from the vault to the balance beam, earned her a fourth-place spot out of 24 qualifying positions and at least 15 other countries. Two of the three competitors ahead of her in qualifying for the event were none other than American teammates Gabby Douglas and Aly Raisman. But the reigning World Champion saw her gold medal dream turn into a nightmare when international rules, allowing only two gymnasts per country into the finals, eliminated her from the Top 24. As her teammates celebrated their individual triumphs just footsteps away, Wieber’s face displayed a canvas of heartbreak.
As the glory and praise bypassed Wieber, she was faced with two options: self-destruction or the construction of her own greatness. Despite being on the outside looking in, Wieber looked within and found passion for her teammates—and in doing so found what would make her a champion again.
Just two days later, she wiped away the tears and dazzled the international crowd with amazing scores in the vault, floor exercise and uneven bars for the Women’s Gymnastics Team Competition. Both performances fueled the Americans to claim their first Team gold medal since the Magnificent Seven won it during the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta. Wieber’s ability to put her own disappointment aside helped her and Team USA achieve Olympic greatness. As if the story needed further etching, reports surfaced from London this week that Wieber endured a possible stress fracture in her right leg sustained during the U.S. Trials weeks prior to the Olympics.
Her struggle and triumph challenges us all to prepare diligently for our moments of greatness. What have you done today to prepare for greatness?