Tony's Book on Amazon.com.
Born without hands or feet, Tony proved we can do much more than we initially believe.
Two events in my life, in particular,
changed how I perceived what is possible in life. The first was running and
winning the Original Ultimate Runner Competition (10k, 400 meters, 100 meters,
a mile, and marathon all ran on the same day).
By running many events in one day, I learned that the body, mind, and spirit could do much more than we initially believe. To run a marathon is a challenge. Running four events on the same day before a marathon was daunting but possible.
The second event that changed my perception of what’s
possible in life was working for many years in the Paralympic Movement. To see
up close and personal the genuinely extraordinary accomplishments of
world-class disabled athletes forever changed how I viewed what’s possible in
I served as Tony Volpentest’s sports agent for many years, and eventually, his coach after my good friend Bryan Hoddle moved onto other pursuits in life. Tony was the fastest Paralympic sprinter globally and the world record holder in the 100 and 200 meters. Tony won two gold medals in Atlanta under Bryan's tutelage. I later coached Tony to a world championship and all-time best in the 200 meters.
During one preliminary round in the 200 meters at the Atlanta Paralympic Games, I watched something that I have never forgotten. What I witnessed that day represents the best in the human spirit and has influenced how I coach.
While Bryan and I were waiting for Tony to run in his 200-meter heat, we watched a young man blast out of the blocks into the lead in the first heat of the 200-meter rounds.
As the young man turned the corner, his prosthetic leg fell off as he rounded the curve. The many years of work to get to this point were over in an instance. The young man was not going to make the finals of the Paralympic 200-meter championships.
What happened next was unbelievable. Thinking about what I saw still makes me emotional to this day decades later as I write this chapter. The young man hopped on one leg back to the middle of the curve, where his prosthetic leg had fallen off. He picked up the prosthetic leg that fell on the ground and somehow placed it under his arm with no assistance.
The young man then turned around and hopped on one leg with his prosthetic leg under his arm toward the finish line. This young man jumped on one leg with his displaced leg to the 200-meter finish line. He crossed the finish line emotionally and physically spent.
There was no dry eye in the Atlanta Olympic stadium as this courageous soul crossed the finish line. The standing ovation of the crowd seemed to last for minutes. I have never seen a better example of the human spirit in action.
When I am tired, frustrated, and want to give up on an important goal, I sometimes think about that young man jumping on one leg carrying his prosthetic leg through the finish line.
Because of my life experiences, probably my greatest strength in coaching is that I can see the true God-given potential in people. I can’t explain it well, but I see the good in people and what they can become in life.
At least part of the reason I believe so strongly in others is that I have seen and felt what the human spirit is ultimately capable of achieving in the right circumstances. Like I tell the students I coach, “you can always do more than you initially believe.” Always.
Nothing is impossible for those who believe. Leave nothing at the finish line of your most important life goals this season. Believe in your God-given gifts. He gave them to you for a reason.
You can always do more than you initially believe.
If you want to watch an inspiring short video, check out Tony's Gold medal run in Atlanta. CBS staff did a good job of capturing Tony's story and world record run. Bryan, Ross Perot, and I were in Atlanta cheering Tony on during his 100 and 200-meter victories.
The Original Ultimate Runner Competition: 10k, 400 meters, 100 meters, a mile, and marathon all ran on the same day.