The Cradles of Eminence in Sports

John Louie RamosSenior Writer IFebruary 10, 2009

The whole world is in chaos with the financial crisis, economic downturn, and mass-layoffs. In spite of these difficulties, it's always best to look for inspiration in the simple things.

Perhaps you've already heard of the book, "Cradles of Eminence." It's a truly inspiring book by Victor Goertzel and company about the childhood lives of some of the best people who ever walked the streets of the earth.

The book gave me the idea to write my own "Cradles of Eminence in Sports."

In a sporting world known for larger-than-life personalities, it's worth a lively few minutes to discover and learn about the early lives and frustrations of a few of our idols.


Sergio Valencia is one of Mexico's most beloved athletes and one of the world's best handicapped swimmers. At age 18 he was involved in a car accident and suffered spinal cord injury which paralyzed him from the waist down—but he never gave up on life.

Since then, he has had an amazing 26-year career as a distance swimmer, achieving more than 16 long distance ocean swims.

Mark Zupan was a former varsity football and soccer player during high school, but as a result of an accident he went into hypothermia and became a quadriplegic.

Now he is captain of the quadriplegic wheelchair rugby team and a two-time national champion.

When asked if he would "turn back the clock" on the day of his accident he answered,

"No, I don't think so. My injury has led me to opportunities and experiences and friendships I would never have had before. And it has taught me about myself. In some ways, it's the best thing that ever happened to me."

Manny Pacquiao is the current pound-for-pound boxing king. His father left the family while he was at a very young age. Growing up, he worked as a cigarette vendor, a construction worker, and a baker just to put food on the table.

Now he earns an estimated $10-15 million per fight.

Lance Armstrong won the Tour de France seven times and survived testicular cancer.

Of his experience with cancer he says:

"Without cancer, I never would have won a single Tour de France. Cancer taught me a plan for more purposeful living, and that in turn taught me how to train and to win more purposefully. It taught me that pain has a reason, and that sometimes the experience of losing things—whether health or a car or an old sense of self—has its own value in the scheme of life. Pain and loss are great enhancers."

Brett Favre was a senior at Southern Mississippi when he had surgery to remove 30 inches of his small intestine. He lost 40 pounds because he couldn’t eat a normal diet during his time at the hospital.

Just one month after having surgery, Favre pulled off one of the greatest victories in Southern Mississippi history. The Golden Eagles beat Alabama 27-24 on a comeback win from the comeback king.

Michael Phelps, at age seven, was diagnosed with Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, an affliction characterized by by constant activity, impulsive behaviour, and the inability to focus one’s attention on anything for a short span of time.

In spite of his early struggles, he became the first Olympian in history to win eight gold medals last year.


Great people like these are everywhere. We just need to open not only our eyes, but also our hearts to notice them.

Recently, I watched a blind person who can drive better and faster than me.

The other night, I was frustrated by a one-handed basketball player who made the game-winning basket right in my face.

It's real nice to meet these kinds of people. Great simply, not simply great.

Life brings disappointments and misfortunes to everyone but what's important is the way you cope up with all these problems.

It's always best to say "It may be difficult but it's possible" rather than to say "It may be possible but it's difficult."

Thank you.


The athlete in the picture above is Maarten Weidjen, a chemo patient turned Olympic champion.