Though I didn’t know her name at the time, Olympian Gabriela Andersen-Schiess inspired me to write creatively.
I grew up loving the Olympic games—winter and summer. I was a kid when Gabriela Andersen-Schiess staggered across the finish line at the first women’s Olympic marathon in 1984. In a time of 2:48:45—37th place, the vision of her fight to finish is burned into my memory. I remember being on my feet in the living room, jumping up and down, tears streaming, mentally pushing her along the last 400-meters.
Twisted, limping, and holding her head, she refused to give up. She waved away medical help. You just knew from watching, she had to finish on her own steam. The crowd was wild, other athletes cheered, and we spectators marveled at her tenacity.
Years later, in grade 11 when we were given a creative writing assignment on courage, I could think of no one else to use as my hero. I took her plight and never give up attitude and applied it to my first heroine. Her plight ever vivid, Gabriela remained faceless in my memory, but yet, she had every face. When I needed my female character to overcome, that character became the Olympian. And now that I am older and listened to Gabriela relive the experience, from her own words, she says it best:
“You can see the struggle, but if you really set your mind to it, you can overcome a lot of obstacles…you have to get over some bad experiences and not dwell on it and just move forward and learn something.”