Team USA visits campus, tell tales of Olympic glory

By Rachel Leland
Staff Writer

Thursday night Two Olympic athletes inspired students with stories of endurance and teamwork.

Deloitte, one of the world’s largest professional service firms that assists both companies and individuals with tax audits, brought the two Olympians to Baylor as part of a recruiting event.

The Olympians, paratriathlon runner Melissa Stockwell and nordic combined gold medal winner Billy Demong, spoke of the leadership at the event which is part of Deloitte’s recruiting strategy to hire 20,000 people by the end of the 2015 fiscal year.

Deloitte, one of the largest recruiters in the country, approached the Olympians, both of whom have been pioneers in making Olympic firsts, because leadership and endurance are skills the company wants to attract in its hiring.

Demong was the first American Olympian to win a gold medal in a nordic event. Stockwell, whose leg was blown off by a roadside bomb during her 2004 deployment in Iraq, became the first Iraq War Veteran chosen to compete in the Paralympic Games.

“I had gone all my life with two legs,” Stockwell said. “Suddenly I was missing one. The first thing was learning to walk and then to be independent again, and after I was able to do that then athletics came to mind.”

After the bomb went off, Stockwell was sent to a medical center in central Baghdad before being transferred to Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington DC.

“Their mission is to get you out of your hospital bed and get you to do things that you didn’t think you could do with two legs, much less with one,” Stockwell said.

Stockwell completed the New York City marathon on a hand-powered bike six months after she lost her leg.

“I thought if I can do these, I can do anything,” Stockwell said.

Stockwell, along with her service dog, Jake, took the stage at the recruiting event to inspire students with her resolve to endure and win despite circumstances.

Choosing to push through the loss of her leg above the knee was no small feat, Stockwell said.

“I had two paths. One path was poor me. The other path was being thankful for what I did have and not letting it stop me from doing what I wanted,” Stockwell said.

Demong entertained the audience by demonstrating the preparation for the ski jump part of the nordic combined.

The Nordic combined is a winter sport that combines cross-country skiing with ski jumping.

Demong, who did not come from a family of skiers, recalled the beginning of his career when he and some other guys from his hometown in upstate New York formed a cross-country team.

The importance of teamwork was a major theme in Demong’s speech, especially since the nordic combined is not a sport in which American athletes have done well.

“We are a small sport in a big country, and in order to get better we had to be together and that really evolved into becoming a team that was so well bonded together that the egoes came out of it,” Demong said.

“It really became about pushing each other to be the best that you can be to make the other guys better.”

Demong, a soon to be father of two who has competed at the world cup level since 1997, does not plan to compete in the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeong Chang, South Korea.

Stockwell said she hopes to take gold at the first ever Olympic paratriathlon in the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.