Amazing Athletes at the 2014 Olympic Games

Production editor and Olympics fan Leesha Plante is guest blogging today about the Olympic Games and tennis great Maria Sharapova. Here’s Leesha!

Last Friday I tuned into the opening ceremonies for the Sochi Games. I was fascinated by all the Russian history and culture that the opening ceremony featured. But I was even more intrigued when NBC took a few minutes to interview Maria Sharapova, Russian tennis star and winner of a Silver Medal in the 2012 London Games.

Everyone knows you can’t play outdoor tennis in the winter…at least, not in Russia. So why were they interviewing Maria? Because she was born in Sochi! And she got to run the Olympic torch into the Fischt stadium!

In the course of the interview, Maria walked viewers through an old tennis court in Sochi where she used to practice as a kid. The court now features a giant mural of Maria, a tribute to the world-famous tennis player. Talk about a testament to how far this remarkably gifted athlete has come.

9781467726436_p0_v1_s114x166 Hearing more of Maria’s story inspired me to pick up our Amazing Athletes bio about Maria (cover pictured) to delve even more deeply into her childhood in Russia and what she’s achieved since then. I learned that she overcame a lot to be ranked as the fifth-best women’s tennis player in the world. She started playing tennis at the age of six, moved to the United States to train without knowing how to speak English, and refused to let anyone tell her she was too tall or skinny or awkward to be successful in tennis. Our Amazing Athletes book even pointed out in one of its informative sidebars that Maria is naturally left-handed, even though she plays tennis right-handed. Talk about pushing yourself to excel in a sport!

I could go on about how amazing Maria is, how exciting the Olympics are to watch, and how impressed I am with all the athletes over in Sochi right now, but I won’t. I’ll just leave you with the thought that I’m so proud to be a Lerner, because it means I can learn all about inspiring role models like Maria Sharapova and—better yet—help spread the word about them to all the kids out there who (who knows?) just might be headed to the Olympics themselves someday!