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Olympian and paralympian inspire

By CAITLIN SISK | Wednesday, October 16, 2013


The Olympic athletes who came to campus as part of the Deloitte Olympic and Paralympic Roadshow on Tuesday shared how their experiences in athletics have informed their lives as leaders.

War veteran and amputee, U.S. Paralympic Sled Hockey team member and Paralympic Gold medal hopeful, Rico Roman, shared his story alongside Steve Mesler, three-time Olympian and Olympic gold medalist in bobsledding, in the Jordan Auditorium of the Mendoza College of Business.

Mesler said after winning a gold medal he retired and started a non-profit organization with his sister that connects children to athletic mentors. Mesler said he also does corporate consulting work through Deloitte.

Mesler said he has been successful in following his passion and his story is an example for many students with similar goals.

“I’m doing the things now that a lot of people, especially the kids from the business school, want to get into, whether it be corporate consulting work, whether it be being the best in the world at something, whether it be impacting the world using things that you’re passionate about,” Mesler said.

Roman said his road to becoming one of the best in the world at sled hockey began with a serious injury he received while serving in Iraq.

“In 2007, I was injured due to a roadside bomb … Due to complications I had my leg amputated, and during my rehab process I found the sport of sled hockey through a group called Operation Comfort that helped veterans in San Antonio,” Roman said. “When I was first invited to come and play the sport I didn’t even want to try it to be honest, and now I turned that around by going to the guys that are injured and asking them to come and try the sport and sharing my story with them because I’ve been in their same predicament being injured overseas.”

Roman said he hopes sharing his story will shed light on how students can best hone their leadership skills to reach their full potential.

“They’re being led into this opportunity right now … They’re gearing [up] to be leaders, and I feel like me sharing my story with them hopefully will give them tools along the way that will help them in choosing the right paths and of course choosing the right people,” Roman said.

Mesler said injuries that stalled his track aspirations pushed him towards a gold medal in bobsledding and the issues he noticed in athletic mentorship allowed him to create an innovative solution.

“We looked at the current model of athletes working with kids and how it just wasn’t practical and how we could do better and engage kids more and turn that into something now that is in three different countries and donating tens and tens of thousands of dollars of technology to schools and connecting athletes with thousands of kids,” Mesler said.

Roman said the ability to change one’s mindset and work towards a larger goal can create success in the face of difficulties.

“Stuff happens. And it happens for a reason. You never know what might lie ahead of you. It might not be a big bomb in the middle of the road up the street, but you never know what might happen to you,” Roman said. “Focus on the big prize. For me that prize is getting a gold medal in Sochi Russia.”

Most importantly, students need to use failure as a motivation to succeed the next time, Roman said. He faced failure when he did not make the U.S. Paralympic Sled Hockey Team the first time he tried out.

“I didn’t go home disappointed that I didn’t make the team. I just went home more determined to make this team the following year,” Roman said. “I went back out to tryouts and I’ve made the team and I’m the first war veteran to make the U.S. sled hockey team.”

As official sponsors of the U.S. Olympic Committee, Deloitte initiated this Olympic and Paralympic Roadshow several years ago in an effort to both motivate students to achieve their goals and to share the values of their company in an interesting way, Mark Chain, member of Mendoza College of Business Accountancy Advisory Board, said.

“The Olympic athletes have such inspirational stories that we’re thinking we can inspire students to reach their full potential by hearing the stories of the U.S. Olympic athletes, and it gives us an opportunity to tell students about our firm and opportunities we have within our organization too because there’s such similarities,” Chain said. “If you think about our core values of community of teamwork, integrity, strength from diversity, commitment to each other and those are the same qualities that are part of the U.S. Olympic movement.”

Sophomore Christine Shiba said the stories of the speakers related closely to the life of a college student, even though most college students will never go to the Olympics.

“One of the things they kept saying is that you think everything’s going wrong and then you find a different way to get out of it, and I really liked that message because there’s a lot of times in college where you’re not really sure of yourself. You’re not really sure where you’re going, but you have the ability to get through it and to succeed. You just have to make sure you’re doing the right things,” Shiba said.