10 Athletes Who Overcame Adversity And Challenges

Athletes motivation

When it comes to the human race, time and time again, history has shown us that those who undergo a challenging life and come out of it on the other side with some battle scars but also a new perspective, end up becoming giants in they’re respective fields. Not only is their story an example for others, but these people go on to become ambassadors of change – and they excel tremendously. The adversity allows these people to grow many intrinsic traits that ultimately serve them significantly to their desired goals. In this segment, athletes are the centre of discussion and we at FeelingSuccess take great pride to reveal the 10 most adverse stories that showcase athletes who went from rags to riches or people who triumphed over their troubles…

1. Pele

Possibly the great soccer player of all time, Pele, would come from very humble beginnings. He was born in some very extreme conditions of poverty in the favela’s of Sao Paulo. He grew to love the sport and would often play in the streets with a grapefruit or a sock stuffed with newspapers and he would make extra money by working as a servant in many tea shops in Brazil. The crime ridden neighbourhood’s full of despair and hardships allowed Pele to grow a strong inner force that gave him a strong edge over his competition.

“Success is no accident. It is hard work, perseverance, learning, studying, sacrifice and most of all, love of what you are doing or learning to do.”


2. Michael Oher

Born as 1 of 12 children of a mother who was an alcoholic and addicted to crack cocaine, while his father was constantly in jail. His upbringing was so brutal he had to repeat grade 1 and 2 because of lack of parenting attention. He attended 11 different schools in his first 9 years. He was placed in a foster home at only age 7 and lived in and out of homelessness for quite some time. His father, who was in prison was murdered by Michael’s mothers brother who was in the same cell. Through a very difficult childhood and upbringing, things finally seemed to get much more stable when a family adopted him and showed him true affection. Michael Oher would go on to get drafter in the NFL and won a superbowl too. The Hollywood film Blind Side was also created and based on his life.



3. Mario Lemieux

Often considered the greatest hockey player skill for skill, if he had gotten the luxury to play an entire career. However, Lemieux was sidelined by consistent excruciating back pains that he battled with night after night. At certain points in his career, teammates have noted that he could barely tie his own skates, yet his grit, resilience and courage to push forward inspired everyone around him enormously. Lemieux would face another huge obstacle when he was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma cancer which resulted in his strength to decrease because of the radiation treatments. However, he would battle through both issues at the same time all while earning 2 more scoring titles before retiring. This is the stuff of legend, and there’s great reason he get’s dubbed as Super Mario! He would prevail and overcome the cancer as well as raise funds for curing the deadly disease…


4. Adrian Peterson

The star running back has dealt with adversity his entire life. When he was just 7 years old, he witnessed his brother getting killed by a drunk driver who ran into his bike. During his teens, he lived in a poor neighbourhood in Texas while his father was in prison. Prior to being drafter, his step brother was murdered. He’s been battling life’s obstacles and dealing with them head on. In recent times during his NFL career, his 2 year old son was the victim of child abuse by Peterson’s ex wife’s boyfriend who ended up killing the young boy after serious head injuries.

“Things that I go through, I’ve said a thousand times, it helps me play this game to a different level. I’m able to kind of release a lot of my stress through this sport, so that’s what I plan on doing.”


5. Jim Abbott

Jim Abott was an MLB player who was born with only one hand. He showed an early passion for sports and was even the starting Quarterback for his high school football team. On the baseball mound, he would wear a glove on his right hand while he threw and then would quickly switch the glove to his other hand to be able to react to the hit. Upon graduation he was immediately drafted by the Toronto Blue Jays as a pitcher! He decided to start his career at the University of Michigan on a scholarship. His story has inspired millions and his courage has made him a true inspiration. Today, he is a motivational speaker and a philanthropist who has donated 100,000 to an organization that helps groups that care for children in California.


6. Venus Williams

She was born and raised in the infamous neighbourhood’s of Compton California. The family left to West Palm Beach for a more stable environment, however, they would face some racial profiling and during tournaments, other parents would talk negatively of her and her sister. Facing all the odds of the past, Venus Williams became the first African American female to become number 1 in the sport of tennis, as she set a brand new precedent. She went on to break many barriers – between gender and colour.


7. Knowshon Moreno

When the camera’s zoomed in on the tears rolling down NFL’s Knowshon Moreno’s cheeks during the national anthem, everyone was curious to know why. There was clearly a reason behind those tears. Moreno’s parents were roughly 17 when they had him and were very unstable. In fact, he went from several homeless shelter’s to living with strangers over countless times until he turned 11. Finally, his grandmother had enough and won full custody of her grandson.


8. Bethany Hamilton

Rightfully nicknamed the “soul surfer”, Bethany Hamilton lost her left arm and 60% of her blood in a shark attack in Hawaii when she was just 13 years old. However, she was far too determined to let anything get in the way of her passion. In less than a month after the injury, she remarkably returned to the water, and would soon enough, go on to compete in several world class surf competitions. She is now a motivational speaker and a best selling author.


“Courage doesn’t mean you don’t get afraid. Courage means you don’t let fear stop you.”


9. Lionel Messi

When young Messi turned 11, his life turned in a whole different direction – he was diagnosed with growth hormone deficiency. A local team was interested in him and his skills, however could not afford to cover costs of the treatments he required – which cost $900 a month, which is a fortune in this part of Argentina.  This outcome created something magnificent – a very powerful mindset. Rather than discourage him, Messi let it sink in to motivate his every waking cell in his body. He never once grew a “poor me” attitude and he absolutely NEVER made an excuse or complained. Instead he focused on growing as a person and becoming unbeatable in the game he loved. Today, Lionel Messi is an ambassador for UNICEF and he created his own charity foundation fro struggling


10. Casey Martin

Born with a defect in his right leg, Casey Martin never let the real world effect his inner world. He had a condition called Klippel Trenaunay Weber syndrome which results in constant pain in his leg. He would find it very challenging to walk the 18 holes. He requested to use a buggy on the PGA course but was granted a shocking “no”. Being a courageous athlete from all the adversity he already faced, he decided to sue the PGA. He successfully won the case and was given the permission to use a golf cart . He played in the Olympics and finished at twenty third place overall, he won at the US Open and the Nike tour. However, he really won in the game of life – proving that with some courage, resilience and enthusiastic commitment, anything is possible!



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