SI Vault
 
The Power Of Ten
Alexander Wolff
December 10, 2012
IN 1987, SI BESTOWED ITS HIGHEST HONOR ON A GROUP OF SPORTS FIGURES DEDICATED TO HELPING OTHERS. A QUARTER CENTURY LATER, ATHLETES ARE CHANNELING THE SAME PASSION AND COMMITMENT TO EVER BROADER ISSUES, ON AN EVER WIDENING SCALE
Decrease font Decrease font
Enlarge font Enlarge font
December 10, 2012

The Power Of Ten

IN 1987, SI BESTOWED ITS HIGHEST HONOR ON A GROUP OF SPORTS FIGURES DEDICATED TO HELPING OTHERS. A QUARTER CENTURY LATER, ATHLETES ARE CHANNELING THE SAME PASSION AND COMMITMENT TO EVER BROADER ISSUES, ON AN EVER WIDENING SCALE

View CoverRead All Articles
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8

The world map in his bedroom, festooned with pins to indicate where he has been, still has a few bare patches. So he has itineraries planned for Patagonia and Antarctica, as well as Scandinavia and Eastern Europe. But he's also booked with Starkey for missions to South Sudan, Darfur and the Congo. "It gives you perspective," he says. "If you get consumed by fame and fortune, your world can be a very small bubble. We have a lot of issues here, but they pale compared to around the world. Yet even in the poorest places I've been, people's happiness isn't dictated by their bank account."

Arizona drafted Fitzgerald two days after its former defensive back, Army Ranger Pat Tillman, was killed in Afghanistan, almost as if the team had a torch that needed to be picked up. "God didn't put me on earth to amuse the masses but to do more," Fitzgerald says. "To me it's like the story of the man who found a thousand starfish washed up on the shore one day. He threw one back, and someone said, 'Yo! There must be a thousand starfish there! You can't save 'em all!' And he said, 'Yeah, but I can save the ones I can.'"

Chrissie Wellington

TO TRI IS TO SERVE

Wellington went in reverse. Rather than gaining a public platform via sports, it was the philanthropic work Wellington was already doing that led to her career as a pro athlete. In 2002 and '03, she worked for Britain's Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, where her duties included contributing to the official UK policy for the postconflict reconstruction of Iraq. By 2004, however, Wellington yearned for a more tangible impact, so she moved to Nepal to start a sanitation project in an area ravaged by civil war. Wellington's belief in community-driven initiatives led her to unglamorous duties. In villages where she worked, relieving oneself outside was customary, so Wellington asked children and village leaders to calculate how much waste they produce and understand how it would affect the local water supply. The result, Wellington says, "was that they realize there's a need for toilets and take ownership of the project and invest their own time and resources in producing that infrastructure."

To keep fit, Wellington, then a recreational runner and swimmer, took up cycling, and she soon found that she could keep pace even at high altitude with native Nepali Sherpas who guide climbers up Mount Everest. After returning to Britain in 2006, Wellington turned pro as a triathlete. The rest is endurance sports history: She entered the '07 Ironman triathlon world championship as an unknown and demolished the competition. Today she is 13--0 lifetime in Ironmans and a four-time world champ.

But charity is still central to her life. Wellington maintains involvement with Girls Education Nepal, a scholarship program, and organizes Runs With Chrissie to raise funds for The Jane Tomlinson Appeal, an organization that donates to cancer charities and that was founded by the late Tomlinson, who took up endurance sports upon being diagnosed with terminal cancer. And in 2008, Wellington was approached for advice by Tanya Maslach, founder of GOTRIbal, which creates worldwide social networks of women who participate in endurance activities. Instead of advice, Wellington became a (pro bono) spokeswoman and centerpiece of special events.

When she competes, Wellington drops to the ground and log rolls across the finish in memory of Jon Blais, who vowed to complete a 2005 Ironman after an ALS diagnosis even if, he said, "I have to be rolled across the finish line." Says Wellington, "It's not just about honoring [Blais], it's about raising awareness for the Blazeman Foundation," which donates money to ALS research.

Even during her races, a cause is front and center.

—David Epstein

Continue Story
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8