For most athletes, going to the Olympics is a dream come true. It means that you have achieved something and that you are worthy of competing for your country against the best of the best. However, what they don't tell you is that being an Olympic athlete is very expensive. Most competitors receive sponsorship offers from large companies that help them pay for training and the expenses related to their sport.
For example, gold medal winning swimmer, Michael Phelps, received tons of sponsorship offers when he competed last year. The nation rooted for him and hoped that he would win. And why not? He was an excellent swimmer with charm and charisma. But what happens when you aren't as marketable as he is?
Sarah Robles is struggling with just this question. She isn't your everyday athlete, but she's good at what she does. At 23, Sarah is the highest ranked weightlifter in the United States and has a great shot at winning an Olympic medal. The problem is that not only is she a woman, she also doesn't fit the standards for commercial beauty. She is a large woman with a winning smile, who can lift 568 pounds. At 5 feet tall and 275 pounds, she isn't your typical cover girl or body builder in a bikini and as a result, the sponsorship offers aren't pouring in.
In fact, Robles struggles to get by on the $400 per month stipend from U.S.A Weightlifting. When you have to eat a 4,000 calorie lifting diet, it's hard to make this amount cover just food.
Fortunately, her mother was able to get a grant from Proctor and Gamble that helps pay for her expenses in order to travel to London to watch her daughter compete. Without that, Sarah Robles mom wouldn't be able to attend.
It's heart-warming to see someone not letting others tell them that they can't follow their dreams. She may not be what corporate America has decided is a marketable role-model, but I hope that plus-sized women and young girls look at her and know that they can do amazing things too.
For job seekers and others who are discouraged each time the door closes in their face, just look at Sarah Robles and see how your greatest weakness can be your greatest strength. Believe in yourself and soon that thing that makes you different will be the same thing that makes you stand out.
Will you be rooting for Sarah? Why or why not?