Everybody loves an underdog story. Whether it’s about people going rags to riches, 4th quarter comebacks, people overcoming failure and rejection to become wildly successful – there’s just something about an underdog story that speaks to us all.
Of course some of the best and most inspiring of these underdog stories occur in sports. Athletes have the ability to not only inspire us with their strength and competitive spirit, but also with their ability to overcome adversity. There are deficits to overcome, size and speed differences, pushing through injuries – but there are few things harder to overcome than competing against the best when you’re missing a limb (or two).
There are 5 athletes that I’ve seen come up in conversations recently that didn’t think twice about competing at a disadvantage when others would have quit – or maybe never have started at all.
Here are the 5 inspiring athletes who despite missing limbs, have continued to prove the doubters wrong.
Zach Hodskins is a high school basketball player from Alpharetta, Georgia. He was born without the lower half of his left arm because of a birth defect, which would seemingly make a career in basketball impossible. Not only has he become a star high school basketball player – which would be impressive in and of itself – he was recently offered a spot by Florida coach Billy Donovan as a preferred walk-on with the chance to secure a scholarship down the road.
When I’m out on the court, I forget my arm isn’t there and just play ball. Passion and love for the sport helps me overcome all obstacles. To this day I haven’t come across anything I can’t do. – Zach Hodskins
Barbie Thomas is a fitness competitor from Phoenix, Arizona. She lost both her arms in a freak transformer accident when at age 2, she climbed up on the box, grabbed on to some wires, and received an electrical shock that scorched her arms to the bone.
Although she is missing both arms, she’s still proving to be as strong as the competition. As a teen she competed on her high school swim team and participated in dance and soccer. Starting in 2000, she started training as a bodybuilder and has been competing in fitness contests ever since.
When I first decided I wanted to compete, I talked with an organizer who told me I’d never win. When someone says I can’t do something, it lights a fire under me. – Barbie Thomas
Anthony Robles was born with only one leg for unknown reasons, but refused to wear a prosthetic leg, removing it at the age of 3. He endeavored to work around his missing leg, and didn’t let it stop him from becoming a national high school and college wrestling champion.
Although his career got off to a rocky 5-8 start as a freshman in high school, he ended up compiling a 96-0 record through his junior and senior years of high school. In March of 2011, the All-American Arizona State University student won the NCAA championship title for the 125-pound weight class division.
He has since wrote a book, Unstoppable: From Underdog to Undefeated: How I Became a Champion, and has begun to work towards a future in motivational speaking.
We wrestle with our own opponents on a daily basis. These challengers can come in numerous forms whether it be a physical challenge, emotional, or even relational issues that can overtake us. No matter what opponent we are wrestling against we can be UNSTOPPABLE. – Anthony Robles
Nick Newell has a left arm that stops past the elbow since birth because of a condition called congenital amputation. He adapted with his one arm, going into his high school wrestling team. He thought about quitting after his very first session because it was ‘the hardest thing I had done in my life’ as he says, but his mother did not allow him, and instead he worked hard from then on.
Newell had over 300 victories between high school and college in wrestling. Since moving on from wrestling and taking up MMA, he has amassed a perfect 10-0 record and recently signed a multi-fight contract with World Series Of Fighting
“Never quit because something is too hard. Just believe in yourself and just know that you can do anything” – Nick Newell
Bethany Hamilton was born to be in the water. Raised by surfers in Hawaii, and a natural surfer herself, she began competing professionally as a young child. A the age of 13, she lost her arm and nearly lost her life in a vicious shark attack. One month later she was back on her surfboard with a determined spirit and positive attitude. Two years later she won first place in the Explorer Women’s Division of the NSSA National Championships. Now, the professional surfer shares her inspirational message of hope with millions of people and her story has been made into an inspiring major motion picture, Soul Surfer.
Life is alot like surfing… When you get caught in the impact zone, you’ve got to just get back up. Because you never know what may be over the next wave. – Bethany Hamilton