The London Olympic Games kick off tomorrow. To get you hyped, here are eight great TEDTalks from Olympians as well as two from inspiring Paralympians.
Maarten van der Weijden: On surviving cancer and becoming Olympic champion
Long-distance swimmer Maarten van der Weijden became a Dutch national hero in 2008 after winning gold at the Beijing Summer Olympics in the 10km open water marathon race, just five years after recovering from leukemia. However, van der Weijden calls the idea that he “beat cancer” a crock and warns against notions that a patient has any influence over whether they survive the devastating disease. (Filmed at TEDxRotterdam.)
Sarah Reinertsen: The first woman with an artificial leg to complete an Ironman
Triathlete Sarah Reinertsen was the world champion going into the 1992 Paralympics, but came home empty-handed and devastated. She recalls how meeting another athlete with an amputated leg inspired her to attempt an Ironman Triathlon. (Filmed at TEDxYouth@Bruce, which was dedicated to the theme “Olympic Spirit.”)
Jeff Olson: How do we inspire kids to make healthy lifestyle choices?
Alpine skier Jeff Olson competed in the 1988 and 1992 Winter Olympics, and now worries that the torch Americans have passed on to the next generation is a penchant for unhealthy lifestyle choices. In this talk, Olson talks about what he calls “diseases of affluence.” (Filmed at TEDxMileHigh.)
Caryn Davies: The power of teammates
Rower Caryn Davies almost passed out as she neared the finish line in the women’s eight at the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing. Luckily, she made it — and won gold. In this talk, Davies admits that training six hours a day for years was often monotonous, but that her teammates inspired her to keep going — just not in the way you’d expect. (Filmed at TEDxYouth@Bruce.)
Jason Rogers: We all write our own story
According to Jason Rogers, a fencer who won Olympic silver in 2008, we all are writers. In this talk, Rogers gives a short history of fencing and shares his Olympic story, filled with fascinating characters and unexpected plot twists that needed to be rewritten in his mind. (Filmed at TEDxYouth@Bruce.)
Rajyavardhan Rathore: Intelligence doesn’t just come in books
At the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens, Col. Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore won the first silver medal for India since the 1900 Olympics in Paris. In this short talk, Rathore stresses that book smarts aren’t the only type of intelligence, and that wisdom earned through business and sport are equally important. (Filmed at TEDxShekhavati; turn on the captions.)
Steve Mesler: When kids meet their Olympic heroes
Olympic gold medalist Steve Mesler founded the organization Classroom Champions, which connects Olympians and Paralympians with underserved schoolkids via Twitter and email. Here, he shares his vision for the program as “Big Brothers Big Sisters meets 21st-century pen-palling.” (Filmed at TEDxCalgary.)
Marlon Shirley: Overcoming obstacles
Marlon Shirley won back-to-back gold medals in the 100-meter dash at the Paralympic Games of 2000 and 2004. In a talk given over webcam, Shirley tells the story of how he overcame obstacles both physical and situational. (Filmed at TEDxYouth@Bruce.)
Bob Beamon on his world-record long jump
In the 1968 Olympics, track and fielder Bob Beamon pulled off the “leap of the century.” Appearing to take flight in the long jump, Beamon’s jump far exceeded the capabilities of the measuring equipment. In this flipped TED-Ed lesson, Beamon reveals that he thought he might’ve broken the world record by a few inches … but instead blew it out of the water.
Isabel Allende on carrying the Olympic flag
Author and activist Isabel Allende may not have competed in the Olympics, but this talk is pure gold. In it, she describes her “four minutes of fame” as one of the flag bearers at the 2006 Winter Olympics in Turin, Italy.