Inspiring Athletes Who Defied The Odds

inspiring athletes

Many of us complain that we just don’t have the time to exercise. However, what if the odds were against us even more? Prepare to be inspired. Imagine being born missing an arm or losing your leg in a freak accident. Well there are some amazing and inspiring athletes that have been through some serious life challenge, who despite the odds against them have achieved tremendous feats.

Mind over body: 6 Inspiring athletes share their stories

“I don’t have time to exercise.”

“I don’t have the money to join a gym.

“I don’t like getting sweaty.”

These are your run-of-the-mill excuses for not exercising.

But what about, “I don’t have a leg?”

You rarely hear that one. Not because there aren’t plenty of amputees out there, but rather, because many of these individuals turn their excuses upside down, converting their hardship into the ultimate motivation.

I should know. Although I was born missing my left leg, I refuse to let my physical difference get in the way of my fitness.

Family lore has it that as a toddler, I was already pitching balls around the living room. I continued to develop as an athlete in elementary school, hobbling around the baseball field and basketball court to keep up with my peers.

At 15 years old, I joined my high school swim team and never looked back, eventually swimming my way to a gold medal at the 2010 Can-Am Spring Paralympic Championships. Most recently, I’ve shifted my focus to strength training. I’ve learned to squat, deadlift, and Olympic lift ­– all on one leg.

Instead of allowing the absence of my leg to drag me down, I rely on it to continually rekindle my fire – and to show others that there are no limits.

But I’m not the only one. What follows are the stories of six athletes who inspire me each and every day.

Luke Ericson (Kaneohe, HI)


Motto: “Better yourself in every way everyday.”

Luke Ericson, 21, was born missing his entire left arm and shoulder, along with half of his left lung. He also has a couple of malformed and fused vertebrae in his neck. As a result of these asymmetries, Ericson has developed scoliosis. Nine years ago, he was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes, to boot.

None of this holds him back, however, from doing what he loves: CrossFit.

“I complete in CrossFit, even though I train like a bodybuilder,” Ericson says. “I think I’m a little confused.”

He’s obviously not too confused, though, considering the awe-inspiring sets he rips off of one-arm pull-ups, push-ups, dips, deadlifts, and even rope climbs. The only real adaptation he has to make is for barbell training, Ericson says, where he holds the center of the bar for balance.

Ericson loves to prove doubters wrong. “Limits are self-imposed,” he says, “so I want to continually push mine – to do what I’ve never done and be what I’ve never been.”

When asked about his proudest athletic accomplishment, he said “just making a difference in everyday people’s lives, big or small, through social media, competition, and doing what I love.”

When he’s not training, Ericson enjoys hiking, swimming, snorkeling, surfing, kayaking and adventuring in scenic Hawaii.

Anthony Arvanitakis (Amsterdam, The Netherlands)


Motto: “The successful warrior is the average man, with laser-like focus.” -Bruce Lee

In the early 2000’s, Anthony Arvanitakis, 30, was a Sports Science student and Greek national champion in canoe kayak. But that was before the accident.

While on a routine pizza delivery run on his motorcycle, Arvanitakis collided head-on with an automobile. Launched 75 feet from his bike, his body would never be the same.

After six years of depression and 13 painful surgeries attempting to repair his shattered lower leg, Arvanitakis elected to “cut the problem’s root, both metaphorically and literally.”

“A below-knee amputation was the only way to have a functional life again and pursue my passion: fitness,” Arvanitakis says.

That was seven years ago. Today, Arvanitakis is a chiseled bodyweight exercise specialist, personal trainer, and fitness writer. He enjoys the challenge of finding creative solutions to train his entire body using nothing more than his own bodyweight and odd objects around the house.

“The accident gave me renewed purpose in life,” he says, “and falling in love with calisthenics gave me a reason to wake up in the morning again. I use my misfortune as a tool to motivate others.”

His latest and greatest athletic feat? A one-arm pull-up. Just don’t go getting any ideas about it being easier for him because he has one leg. According to Arvanitakis, his prosthesis is just as heavy as a normal leg.

Full Story: The Most Inspiring Athletes

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