David Bruce: Mothers, Motivation, Music


• The mother of Sarah Hughes, the gold-winning medalist in women’s figure skating at the 2002 Winter Olympic Games, overcame breast cancer. When she told Sarah and her other children about the breast cancer, Sarah was confident that her mother could overcome the disease. After all, Olympic gold medalist Scott Hamilton had overcome testicular cancer with chemotherapy. Sarah’s mother said, “I wanted to call up Scott Hamilton and just kiss him. Someone my daughter knew of and admired so much had been through cancer and beat it.”

• Pittsburgh Penguin hockey player Mario Lemieux claimed that he learned to skate in his living room after his mother, Pierrette, allowed her sons to create an ice surface at home. She turned off the heat in their home, opened the doors and windows, and let her sons bring in snow and pack it on the living room floor—the snow quickly turned to ice. True or not, this is a good story. (But don’t try this in your home!)

• When she was a very young gymnast, Tracee Talavera’s worst-scoring event was the vault; however, she did receive five perfect scores of 10 from the judges of this event at the final trials for a United States World Championship team. When Tracee called home with the good news, her astonished mother asked, “Tracee, did the vaulting judges have seeing-eye dogs?”

• When Julie Krone was young, she told her mother that she wanted to be a jockey. When her mother told the family veterinarian what young Julie wanted to do when she grew up, he advised her to knock Julie in the head. Her mother didn’t follow that advice; instead, she took Julie to the racetrack. Of course, Julie grew up to become a famous jockey.

• The mother of Boston Celtic Bill Russell was a strong woman. When Bill was a child, she saw another kid slap him. Bill didn’t fight back, so she made him fight the other kid. While Bill was fighting that kid, another child insulted Bill, so after Bill had finished fighting the first kid, she made him fight the other child, too.


• Walter Payton knew how to motivate the linesmen who blocked for him. When he earned his first 1,000-yard rushing season—the first Chicago back to earn that many yards in a single season since Gale Sayers—he gave each linesman a gold watch that bore this message: “Thanks for the 1,000 yards.” In addition, he gave praise to linesmen even when the linesmen felt that the praise was not due. For example, in college Jackie Slater felt sometimes that his block could have been a whole lot better, and that only Mr. Payton’s incredible athletic ability had enabled him to get free and get big yardage. However, in talking to the media, Mr. Payton would give the credit to Mr. Slater and say that the block had gotten him loose to go for big yardage. Things like that motivate linesmen to work hard to protect the runner.

• A good athlete makes other athletes better. Evidence for this can be seen in the high-school career of major-league player Alex Rodriguez. Baseball scouts often came to his games, and they used radar guns to see how fast pitchers were throwing to him. The radar guns showed pitchers throwing an average of five miles per hour faster when facing Mr. Rodriguez. Simply by being a good athlete, Mr. Rodriguez had motivated the opposing pitchers to throw harder.


• In 1956, American Tenley Albright won the gold medal in ladies’ singles figure skating (the first American to do so) at the Winter Olympics held in Cortina d’Ampezzo, Italy. She won despite an injury suffered during a practice in which she fell and her skate cut through her right boot and reached the bone. Fortunately, her father, a surgeon, flew to Cortina and fixed her up, although for a few days she couldn’t do any real practicing of the hard jumps and spins. Fortunately, on the day the competition was to begin, her ankle felt normal and she could do the hard stuff. In the final part of the skating competition, she started skating to her music, and suddenly she heard what sounded like singing, although her music was instrumental only. She says, “What happened was the thousands watching were humming and singing along with the music. It was wonderful. It made me forget my injury.” Interestingly, Ms. Albright shares the same birthday (month and day) as the first American man to win the gold medal in men’s singles figure skating: Dick Button, who won gold in 1948 and 1952. Each year, they call each other up on July 18 to wish each other a happy birthday.


Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved


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