By Doug Wright
The late, great Muhammad Ali was one of the most celebrated sporting icons of the last century, and one of the greatest boxers of all time.
He began training to be a boxer when he was just twelve years old, and swiftly rose through the ranks, with his first gold medal win at the 1960 Summer Olympics in Rome. His conversion to Islam and subsequent refusal to be conscripted into the Vietnam War, as well as his staunch refusal to be seen as lesser or secondary to the white majority, made him a source of inspiration and pride to the Civil Rights Movement.
Even after being stripped of his boxing titles and arrested, he refused to back down, and the US Government was eventually forced to overturn his conviction four years later.
Along with his sporting achievements, Muhammad Ali was also a two time Grammy Award nominee, and performed in several films and a Broadway Musical. He was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in the 80s and before his death last year, devoted the rest of his life to charity and religious works.
“I am the greatest, I said that even before I knew I was.”
Muhammad Ali faced every kind of setback imaginable and yet still emerged on top, because of his faith in himself, in his God and his refusal to never give up. One of his best quotes says it all: “I am the greatest, I said that even before I knew I was.”
On the other side of the world, Sir Edmund Hillary had also become a world first. With only average marks at school, he discovered that he had the strength and endurance for mountain climbing. He made his first ascent to the summit of Mt Ollivier in the Southern Alps in 1939.
Many climbing teams had failed to reach the summit of Mt Everest, hampered by the conditions and the politics of the time. Nepal only allowed one expedition a year. Sir Edmund was chosen to be part of the 1953 British expedition.
The attempt was plagued by setbacks. On the final assault, the team had to turn back when an oxygen system failed. Then they had to wait two days for the weather to clear. Additionally, Hillary was held up for two hours when his boots froze solid and he had to thaw them out. Finally, he and Tenzing Norgay reached the summit, the highest point on Earth, where they only stayed for fifteen minutes.
Sir Edmund Hillary continued his mountaineering career with several more successful ascents on mountains in the Himalayas, and like Muhammad Ali, devoted the rest of his life to charitable works, helping to build schools and hospitals through his foundation, the Himalayan Trust.
Can there be anything as insurmountable as the thought of climbing an unbeatable mountain? Yet it was done, with passion, perseverance and determination.
Neither Muhammad Ali nor Sir Edmund Hillary allowed themselves to feel the doubt and fear that would so easily hold the rest of us back from attaining our goals. They had an extraordinary conviction in their abilities, an unwavering faith that they would succeed. And they both used their fame for good, to help others less fortunate than themselves.
The lesson that we can learn from these men is that if we think it can be done, it will be. We just have to keep on keeping on, and give back whenever and wherever we can.
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Doug Wright, is a transformed survivor of a head-on near death vehicle collision.
Passionate about helping people overcome their inner most fears, especially when recovering from trauma, Doug has survived to share his courageous story … his motto is “never give up”.
Away from his everyday activities, Doug invests his spare time playing his electric guitar, knocking out an eclectic mix of Eagles hits and fishing for coral trout in Airlee Beach, Northern Queensland.