As more and more athletes are put in the international spotlight, more and more athletes are showcasing inspirational talent and victories.
An increasing number of inspirational stories lead to increasing disappointment from those who looked up to the athletes when they fall from grace, and this past year has proved to be a prime example.
Last year, at the Olympics, a runner from South Africa named Oscar Pistorius competed in the Olympics. Pistorius, the “Blade Runner,” offered hope to all disabled athletes as he became the first amputee runner to compete in the Olympics.
Though he couldn’t pull out an outright win, Pistorius amazed the world with his triumph of qualifying for the Olympics with both legs amputated. At the 2012 Paralympics, Pistorius set a world record in a semifinal heat of the 200-meter, in which he earned a silver medal during the final heat.
However, in the past two weeks, Pistorius was charged in the death of his girlfriend, who was shot and killed the morning of Feb. 14.
If that doesn’t make a person lose all their hard-earned respect, what does?
It doesn’t even have to officially be the athlete’s fault when it comes to lost credibility. Take Manti Te’o, for instance. The passion of a man who played to honor his deceased grandmother and girlfriend — well, truly only his grandmother — gained the attention of the country amidst a hot season for Notre Dame.
After his fall into a long and elaborate hoax, Te’o showcased his vulnerability to audiences who cared. Sure, Te’o may not have known it was a hoax, but his lies to not only the media but to his parents who thought they were speaking the truth to the media about Te’o’s girlfriend lowered the fondness the nation had grown to have for the linebacker.
Of course, a column can’t be written about falls from grace without at least mentioning the formerly great Lance Armstrong.
In what was possibly the worst case of the how-the-mighty-have-fallen fever, Armstrong fervently denied use of steroids until that fateful Oprah interview, in which he finally admitted doping.
A man hailed for being an Olympic bronze medal-winning athlete and multiple-times Tour de France winner after surviving testicular cancer that had spread to his brain and lungs, Armstrong surely had one of the most inspiring and uplifting stories in the athletic world.
Even the movie “Dodgeball” included a cameo appearance from Armstrong, who talked about his impressive career after his bout with cancer in order to convince the captain of the dodgeball team to not give up.
Everything but Armstrong’s imdb.com credits have been stripped from the cyclist after confirmation of the doping in his career, and to rub it in farther, Armstrong is never allowed to race again.
Unfortunately, Armstrong’s own actions forced him into this position, and Armstrong became the master of his own demise.
Prominent athletes are in a situation in which they must start paying attention to every person that looks up to them.
Children stricken with cancer that aspire to be athletes someday no longer have a role model in Armstrong. Handicapped children that use prosthetics won’t want to look up to Pistorius, and those who aspire to be able to overcome unfortunate events likely won’t find their hero in Te’o.
So perhaps it is best for fans to not put all their eggs in one basket and not aspire to be like a majority of the athletes that permeate the media.
Tamzen Tumlison is a writer for the Arkansas Traveler. Her column appears every other Wednesday. Follow the sports section on Twitter @UATravSports.