There are few people that I have met in my life like four-time Paralympic Gold Medalist Tony Volpentest.
Born without hands and feet, he grew up with the dream of becoming the fastest man in the world---and that is exactly what he did.
He has been an inspiration to people around the world because he never gave up on himself or his dream. Through every challenge and victory he has been a man of conviction and faith, realizing that nothing was ever really impossible.
Discussing how Tony was able to participate in baton passing while running track in high school, his coach says this: "How do you show a kid without hands how to pass a baton? I had no idea. I didn't know what to do. I showed him the basics, but it was up t him to figure out how to do it. He never backed down from anything. That's the most amazing thing about Tony. He never backed down from anything!"
That was the Tony Volpentest I had the privilege of interviewing for this feature. "When I first decided to get involved in athletics, I never had the intention to inspire or motivate anyone other than myself," he told me. As time went on, though, he realized the responsibility that came with his life and he has embraced that as he has moved forward to new goals and achievements.
He credits his parents with the way he was raised. "Even if they had doubts they never told me that they had that doubt," he told me. Like they did with his other brothers and sisters, they would just let him try to figure out how he was going to make things work. "My parents taught us that we were all unique and had our own gifts and abilities that made us all special. Understanding that at a young age helped me a great deal." Among his accolades is being nominated for the Olympic Hall of Fame in 2009 and again in 2012, something that he proudly shares on the cover of his autobiography FASTEST MAN IN THE WORLD: The Tony Volpentest Story (published by Bettie Youngs Books, July 2012).
So what is it about Tony that keeps him motivated even in the face of what some would see as insurmountable odds? If you ask him like I did, this is the answer you will get: "The biggest thing people need to realize is that everyone has greatness within them. It's all about overcoming their perceived limitations and bringing that greatness out."
The life of Tony Volpentest should not only spur us on in our own lives but give us pause when we try to put similar limitations on others. In my conversation with Tony he shared with me what he hopes all of us are able to take away from what he has accomplished: "Recognize that you don't have to wait until one huge life-changing event occurs. Take those baby steps to greatness. Understand that it's going to be hard but taking it one day at a time will get you there. We're only limited by ourselves. There's 100% greatness within all of us."
May we all tap into that inner greatness and live our lives with passion and purpose! Stay in contact wit Tony and his projects at www.tonyvolpentest.com. You can get his book FASTEST MAN IN THE WORLD: The Tony Volpentest Story from the publisher at www.bettieyoungsbooks.com or Amazon.com.
Conversations Book Club will be discussing Tony's books FASTEST MAN IN THE WORLD in person and online on Sat. August 25, 2012. For details visit www.conversationsbookclub.com.