5 Inspiring Athletes Writing About Their Experiences
Athletics can serve as a great way for us to test ourselves, to see what we're made of when facing physical challenges. When the going gets tough, it's helpful to look at those who've overcome serious obstacles in extreme situations. These athletes, listed here in no particular order, tell their stories to inspire others and demonstrate just what is possible through perseverance.
Starting off the list at #1 is Colin O'Brady. A graduate of Yale University, O'Brady was severely burned in a fire in Thailand, with injuries covering 25% of his body. While doctors warned him he might never walk again normally, he was determined to beat the odds, placing first overall at the Chicago Triathlon 18 months later. He's raced in 25 countries on six continents, and taken on big challenges in the world of mountaineering. He set the world record for The Explorers Grand Slam, crossed Greenland, and reached the highest point in all fifty United States.
In his book "The Impossible First: From Fire to Ice - Crossing Antarctica Alone," O'Brady chronicles his expedition to Antarctica in 2018. Pulling a three hundred-pound sled with no dogs or kites and no resupply help, he battled high winds and sub-zero temperatures to complete the world's first solo, unsupported, and completely human powered crossing of the continent, walking over 930 miles in 54 days. O'Brady's nonprofit, Beyond seven-two, raises awareness and funds to inspire kids and their communities to lead active, healthy lives and pursue their biggest dreams.
Up next at #2 is Sunny Stroeer, a multi-sport athlete and adventurer. A former strategy consultant and Harvard MBA, she turned her back on material possessions shortly after turning 30 and moved into a van so she could run and climb full-time. Her specialty is the high altitude endurance realm, with speed records on Aconcagua and on the Annapurna Circuit, and she's participated in big-wall climbs, multi-day paddling trips, and grueling 100-mile runs.
Sunny chronicles her life on the road on her personal blog, available for free on her website. Her writing has appeared in publications such as Trail Runner Magazine and the REI Co-op Journal. She also offers her services as a keynote speaker, and she and her husband own and operate Dreamland Safari Tours in Kanab, Utah.
In the #3 spot is Alex Staniforth, a record-breaking adventurer, endurance athlete, inspirational speaker, author, and mental health activist from the United Kingdom. Suffering from epilepsy, panic attacks, and anxiety as a child, Alex discovered a love of the outdoors as a teenager, and in 2014 he attempted to climb Mount Everest. His first trip coincided with an avalanche, while his second expedition the next year ended when an earthquake hit base camp, taking the lives of three teammates.
Staniforth turned to fundraising for Nepal, cycling the height of Everest in one day and organizing Walk4Nepal on the anniversary of the earthquake to raise money for PHASE Worldwide and support the rebuilding process. He's chronicled his experiences in his books Icefall and Another Peak, and performs speaking engagements to encourage others, especially men, to open up about their struggles and seek help. He's continued to take part in outdoor challenges to raise awareness and funds for mental health, encouraging others to embrace the mountain ahead.
Coming in at #4 is Bethany Hamilton. Growing up in Hawaii, this athlete and author dreamed of becoming a professional surfer. But then, at age 13, she lost an arm in a shark attack. Refusing to let it hold her back, she kept on surfing, competing in competitions and publishing the book Soul Surfer: A True Story of Faith, Family, and Fighting to Get Back on the Board, which was adapted into a 2011 film.
Now a wife and mother, Hamilton uses her platform to inspire others. She writes about her life, her faith, and overcoming obstacles on her website, where fans can also buy books, gear, and her Unstoppable Year online course. She also offers tips on health and wellness, including recipes and workout tips, as well as profiles of other inspiring individuals.
Rounding out the list at #5 is Nigel Vardy, author of the book Once Bitten. A mountaineer, Vardy suffered severe frostbite in 1999 on Mount McKinley, and was pulled off the mountain in the highest-altitude helicopter rescue in North American history. His fingers and toes had to be amputated, but he gradually learned to walk without toes, and eventually returned to climbing.
Vardy's second book is Seven Peaks, Seven Islands, which covers his experiences in becoming the first British climber to summit the tallest peaks on the world's seven largest islands. He performs speaking engagements and helps others with their public speaking skills, all while continuing to take on new challenges around the globe.