Inspired to Stand Up

The 1961 United States World Figure Skating Team

On February 15, 1961, the U.S. Figure Skating team, parents, coaches and judges -34 among the 62 passengers and crew aboard – left New York on Sabena Airlines flight number 548, which crashed before landing in Brussels, en route to Prague. The airplane’s landing gear was not down, according to witnesses, and it is probable that the plane hit a high tension line about four miles from the airport’s runway. Nearby residents said the plane was making more noise than usual and was much lower than usual. There were no survivors.

Life is a journey with moments of life lessons, hope, painful tragedies, successes, failures, and choices. The journey through life teaches us to embrace those lessons, inspires us to dream and to achieve those dreams. Faith guides our souls leading us with integrity.

I was fortunate to be raised by parents who achieved greatness early in their lives, in light of pain and suffering, failure and challenges. My parents were the positive architects of my life, always providing me the encouragement that has helped me through life.

Several weeks ago, the movie Rise was a one-night screening in 586 movie theaters across the United States. Rise is a tribute to the U.S. World Figure Skating Team killed in a plane crash on Feb. 15, 1961. The picture of the 1961 US World Team has hung in my parents’ home since I was born. They lost their best friends that day!

My parents were pairs skaters on that Team, finishing fourth that year. They missed the chance to travel with the Team by 1/10th of 1%. My mom did not know she was pregnant with me at the time. I was born in November.

The sad part of this story is that my father passed away 3 years ago this month at the young age of 69 so my mother never wanted to share their story with the movie’s producers because they were a TEAM! Nevertheless, our family shared the incredible documentary that night with her and some of my parents’ closest friends.

As powerful as it was for her, watching Rise made my entire childhood flashed before my eyes too. I was also a figure skater, coached by my parents and sent to live at the Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, Colorado at the age of 13. My dream was to make the 1980 Winter Olympics. I never achieved that dream although I remember my father repeatedly telling me that I would be the next World Champion.

In front of a boyfriend during dinner one night, Dad told me: “You gave up! You never saw yourself there! You could have been a World Champion!” WOW! I was devastated! However, I realized that his words changed my life forever!

From that day, my mantra to my teams, my children and myself has been “IF YOU SEE YOURSELF THERE, YOU WILL BE THERE!” My first sales job made me realize that I never want to work for something and not be the best. As I embrace the next chapter in my life, I continue to live by that powerful philosophy.

On the night that Rise ran in theaters, Matt Lauer hosted a live TV broadcast from New York City. He interviewed my idol Peggy Fleming, Dorothy Hamill (who’s hairstyle my father insisted I copied), Scott Hamilton (with whom I’d trained), and the most beautiful skater of all time, Michelle Kwan. Matt asked them what skating taught them that they have taken with them in their lives. They used words like focus, hard work, dedication, and the love for the sport.

I am relating this story because I put a blue Post-it note on my mirror several months ago about writing my first book by 2015. I didn’t have a title or topic at the time but I knew I wanted to inspire women leaders to achieve their career goals and go beyond their dreams. After watching this inspirational documentary, I now have a title and story to share with women who aspire to achieve greatness. Skating takes lots of practice, hard work, dedication and time on your backside! Making life choices, experiencing success and dealing with painful challenges does too. Nevertheless, I continue to be Inspired to Stand UP™

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