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Steve Prefontaine This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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     The day was warm and sunny in Munich, Germany, in September 1972, and excited fans filled Olympic Stadium, anxious to see all the countries compete. Athletes walked across the field, while the crowd cheered them on with flags and chants. The XX Olympiad had begun. Three simple but powerful words rang in the ears of the athletes, “Citius, Altius, Fortius.”

“Faster, Higher, Stronger” is exactly what Steve Prefontaine set out to be in the 5,000-meter race. The gun went off and the young, cocky American ran into the wind. Steve never wanted to win a race unless he ran until he had nothing left. He ran with the intent to prove that human willpower has no limits. Steve’s story gives me hope and motivation to strive in life.

Steve Roland Prefontaine was born on January 25, 1951, in Coos Bay, Oregon. The son of a German carpenter, Steve was expected to go to college for an education and take over his father’s business. The thought of running as a career seemed impossible. Everyone told him he was too small, and since one of his legs was shorter than the other, people assumed Steve could not run fast, but he overcame these obstacles.

Throughout his collegiate career, Steve was defeated only twice after placing third in the NCAA National Cross Country meet. Only those with the highest strength of will could meet this challenge. He had a wonderful coach, and a body built to run, but it was his ability to push himself, even in pain, that gave him the strength to beat his competition. When Steve ran a race, he tried to run harder and faster than anyone had ever done.

This attitude caught the attention of the Oregon crowd at Hayward Field. Spectators recall watching Steve run himself into exhaustion using every ounce of determination to finish faster than he ever had. The crowd loved Steve’s willpower. He raced with the idea that he deserved to win only if he ran with everything he had. Even today, I believe people do not realize the true potential our spirit contains. Anybody is capable of pushing the human body and mind further through the power of will.

As the Munich Olympics approached, American fans began to believe Steve to be without limits. He shattered national records multiple times and was chosen to run the 5,000 meters in the Olympics as a junior in college. The American colt went to Munich to prove he had the strength to win. However, with only a few strides left, Steve was passed and took a disappointing fourth place. That day, America saw a legend, their hero, fail when it mattered most. Steve had been humbled and realized no matter how hard he tried, he could not break free of the human body’s imperfections.

During the following years, Steve relentlessly practiced to redeem himself at the Montreal Olympics and show he would not let Munich hold him back, but he was never given the chance. On May 30, 1975, the life of Steve Prefontaine, America’s greatest distance runner, was snuffed out, short of its potential. A crash pinned Steve beneath his car and crushed him to death. It was the end of a life but the birth of a legend.

Even today, 32 years later, people are fascinated by his story. Steve Prefontaine once stated that a race is not to see who’s fastest, but to see who has the most guts. To runners like me (and anyone who has thought about giving up), Steve is an inspiration. Steve showed nothing is impossible and that people can always go farther if they believe in themselves. To go through life always pushing our limits is something we can all learn from Steve Prefontaine.

Steve’s example gives me the hope and motivation to take on life’s hurdles. To live life with enduring determination is a heroic quality. Steve left behind not only national records but also the example of never giving up. The body has its own imperfections but with the gift of willpower, I can choose my fate. As my life goes on, I will remember these words when I am feeling defeated or under pressure. Steve’s legacy will live on in those who carry his flame.


This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.




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ToranThis teenager is a 'regular' and has contributed a lot of work, comments and/or forum posts, and has received many votes and high ratings over a long period of time. said...
Dec. 7, 2011 at 9:04 am:
Whoa!!! This is awesome... I see how this  could be a hero. I'm an thleric, so he is fun to look up to!
 
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