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Reasons to be proud

By Nikki Stone
Sports Motivation
Updated: June 28, 2008
I went into Turin Games with the uneasy feeling that America's "heroes" were certain athletes who were a little too free in expressing their less-than-exemplary behaviors. But as the games come to a close, the United States boasts some genuine heroes that anyone can (and should) be proud of.

I do not share the majority's opinion that it was generally an unsuccessful Games for Team USA. It finished with 25 medals, 12 more than it had ever recorded at a Winter Olympics on foreign soil.

The U.S. might not have reached all the medals it had hoped for, but most of the athletes who walked away with the hardware are quality people that the country can be proud of.

Take, for example, an exuberant redhead who shattered the impression that snowboarders just don't care about the Olympics. Or a Park City skier who came out of nowhere to show us that dreams do come true. Or a philanthropic Harvard hopeful who gave up $40,000 of his winnings to help children around the world.

The U.S. snowboard team once said that the Olympics really didn't matter and many members felt that the games actually took away from their sport. But seeing the tears well up in Shaun White's eyes, you knew that this experience was easily the highlight of his career. His obvious enthusiasm bubbled right out of the television and into living rooms across America. He wasn't afraid to express how much it meant to have that ring of gold hanging around his neck.
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American Alpine skier Ted Ligety entered the Olympics in the shadow of Bode Miller. Even if the press and the coaches didn't necessarily believe in Ligety, it didn't matter. Because he believed in himself. The expression of complete awe on Ligety's face as he looked up at the scoreboard said it all. Gold medals do happen for small-town guys who have a boatload of passion.

Joey Cheek proved that speedskating Olympians can do something more than just stroll down the red carpet with their 15 minutes of fame. He decided to make a difference in the lives of refugee children from Sudan, donating all the bonus money he received from the U.S. Olympic Committee for his gold and silver medals to a humanitarian organization called Right to Play.

His incredible donation will contribute to sport and play programs that work as psychological and social tools for development in one of the world's most disadvantaged countries.

These three athletes represent all that is good with the U.S. team. With role models like these, how can we say the games were a loss?

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