The Olympic Athlete Who Teaches Kids About Life’s Hurdles

Canadian Olympic hurdler Sarah Wells is no stranger to obstacles, both on the track and in her everyday life. This decorated athlete’s hard work brought her many medals, winning her four National Championships, putting her on the podium at the Pan American Games, and bringing her to the Olympics.

Despite trying numerous sports and getting cut from many teams in high school, Wells finally discovered her talent for track and field at the age of 15. Her teacher, Dave Hunt, who was also a national track coach, invited her to train with the University of Toronto Junior Development program. Every day since, she has poured her heart into training to reach Olympic standard.

Wells debuted at the London 2012 Olympics, representing team Canada. At the games, she advanced to the semifinals of the 400m hurdles. One of the youngest competitors in the field, she placed herself in the top 24 in the world.

But her victories came at a price. She was sidelined for nine months before qualifying for the Olympics in 2011, as she was devastated by a stress fracture in her left femur. For any athlete, being told you can’t practice your sport is crippling, especially during a crucial point in training season. She was able to pull herself through by a simple but powerful life motto, “Believe.”

Fast forward to today, and Sarah has remarkably beaten the odds time and time again, continuing to place in competitions despite recurring injuries. Through hard work, perseverance, and an unwavering belief in herself, she has constantly been able to work through her injuries when many people would have walked away after repeatedly being mentally defeated.

“I was strengthening a muscle that people couldn’t see. And that was my self-belief.”

Having seen both success and heartbreak during her athletic career, Sarah feels passionate about sharing her story to inspire others, especially kids. That’s why she founded the Believe Initiative. It’s a movement dedicated to driving success and confidence in youth by teaching the importance of believing in themselves. So far, they have visited schools across Canada, speaking to over 30,000 students.

“I want to be able to share the story of resilience. I want to show students that they don’t have to let their obstacles define their outcomes. They don’t have to let their circumstances tell them how it’s going to end up. Instead, they can see the obstacles they’re facing as hurdles instead of walls.”

Sarah is currently training full time for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics while running her organization. She strives to spread the message that, “Individuals truly have a potential inside of them that they just need someone to spark.”

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