U.S. Paralympian Cortney Jordan on the power of positive
By Greg Bach
All great athletes recall the moment – that defining point in their lives when they know what sport was meant for them.
It can happen at any time, and anywhere.
For Cortney Jordan that life-changer occurred at age 7 at a swimming pool in her hometown of Henderson, Nev.
“Sports were really hard for me growing up,” says Jordan. “With my disability (cerebral palsy) my left side is partially paralyzed so running is a huge challenge and just with coordination in general I have a hard time catching and throwing a ball, or any type of activity like that I really struggle with. My family put me in swim lessons as a form of therapy. It was the one place where my lack of coordination didn’t mean that I would fall on my face or couldn’t catch a ball. It was the perfect fit for me and I just kind of took off with it.”
Did she ever.
Jordan is competing this month in her third Paralympic Games in Rio. You can watch her in action during NBC’s coverage of the Games – the world’s second largest sporting event – which run Sept. 7-18.
If her past performances are any indication of what’s to come in Rio, she’ll be hauling back a pile of medals.
Just listen to these Phelps-like numbers: She’s won eight medals at the Paralympic Games and 26 World Championship medals. At last year’s World Championships, she grabbed gold in the 100- and 400-meter free; silver in the 50-meter free and 50-meter fly; and bronze in the 100-meter back and 200-meter IM.
THE POWER OF POSITIVE
Jordan has a fabulous message that all young athletes need to hear and embrace, because it has served her well and can be a difference maker for others, too.
“I’m a positive person in general and I think that your mind will tell you that you can’t do something a lot quicker than your body will,” she says. “Your body is capable of a lot, but if you don’t have the right mindset to achieve it then you won’t.”
Powerful, poetic and spot on.
“I think it’s kind of hard not to be positive after everything that I have been blessed with,” she says. “How can I not be positive?”
FINDING THE RIGHT OPPORTUNITIES FOR EVERY CHILD
After falling in love with the water at age 7 Jordan joined a club swimming team, where for the next six years she swam against able-bodied competitors. “It was a success to me if I beat one person,” she says.
At age 13 she was invited to a small meet for disabled swimmers in San Diego. “I went to that meet and I won everything and it was the first time I had ever won,” she says. “That was huge because I always thought that I was a really bad swimmer, but when I swam against people with a similar disability I was really good.”
Actually, better than good. A lot better.
She returned the next year, dominated the pool again, and was encouraged to attend the national meet in Texas.
Guess what happened there?
“I was just going to swim and have fun,” Jordan says. “I didn’t even know that meet was a trials meet.”
She swam fast again, was spectacular again, and qualified for the World Championships. So at age 15 while most students were navigating their sophomore year of high school she was competing in South Africa.
A MESSAGE WORTH REMEMBERING
Jordan knows all about challenges and – most importantly – overcoming them.
Her days aren’t easy. She has more hurdles to overcome than most.
“The water is one place where I am not in pain with my disability,” she says. “I’m in constant pain and the water is a relief from that, so I just love it.”
But despite those challenges, she’s constantly got a smile on her face and oozes positive energy. And her outlook on dealing with adversity is a life lesson every young athlete, parents and coaches can learn a lot from.
“There will definitely be challenges along the way, but challenges are what lead to success,” she points out. “When it’s difficult and when it’s hard, that means that you are going to get better from working at it and overcoming that challenge. So instead of seeing challenges as annoying and frustrating, look at them as opportunities to get better and improve and know that it’s a step in the right direction.”
Use these tips from U.S. women’s volleyball great Kelsey Robinson to help your young athletes navigate the all-important mental side of competing
Olympic gold medalist Jordyn Wieber, head gymnastics coach at the University of Arkansas, on the importance of young athletes experiencing failure and developing that all-important resilience to excel in sports and life
Former University of Michigan All-American gymnast Olivia Karas and her father Jim share what parents and young athletes need to know to help them navigate their athletic journey in their new book CONFESSIONS OF A DIVISION-1 ATHLETE: A DAD AND DAUGHTER'S GUIDE TO SURVIVAL
Former University of Louisville volleyball player Courtney Robison-Dixon, author of the new book LIVING IN REAL TIME, on helping young girls navigate the intense pressures imposed by social media and flourish on and off the court