Tales of hope and faith

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 22 November, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 22 November, 2007, 12:00am

This week Stories of Courage by Clare Swain

All the stories in this book are about people who have shown great courage. They are all true stories, and they show different kinds of bravery.

Some are about people who have shown physical courage, others are people who have shown courage in other ways: perhaps by standing up against a brutal political regime, or by fighting terrible pain.

You can look at all the stories and see what the people in them have in common.

You can trace the struggles that they have had, and the barriers that they have had to overcome. You will find that you draw strength from their stories.

They are inspiring and we become stronger people ourselves as a result.

Ana Quirot: Runner who never gave up

The first story in the book gives you a good feel of what is to follow. It is about Ana Quirot who was born in Cuba, an island in the Caribbean.

From an early age she showed great talent for running, and went to a special government school to help her train and develop her skills.

She progressed well, but then found that she was growing fatter, and losing the ideal body shape to be a champion runner. Her school asked her to leave.

The first challenge

This was her first big challenge. She could have just accepted that she was never going to be a champion runner.

Instead, she worked with a trainer and trained hard so that she would lose weight and become stronger too. It was hard, but her commitment and hard work paid off.

She won gold medals at the 1987 Pan American Games. Four years later, the games were held in Cuba. She won two more gold medals and was now a very famous runner.

A bigger challenge

Then tragedy struck. Her stove caught fire in her home, and set fire to her clothes.

She was rushed to hospital where doctors saved her life.

However, she had suffered terrible burns.

The burns covered 38 per cent of her body and she was close to death. Cuban President Fidel Castro visited her in hospital and she made a pledge to him: 'I will run again.'

After five months in hospital, she began to walk again. It was hard and painful, yet she started to practise her running.

Her skin was so badly damaged, she could not bear to go out during the day.

She had to go out in the cooler night air.

Her arms and upper body hurt to move. She was also getting into her 30s.

Yet she kept going and earned a silver medal in the Central American Games in 1993.

Castro said: 'She won a silver medal in the race, but a gold medal for courage'.

An Olympic winner

She kept practising, and ran in the Atlanta Olympic Games in 1996.

She raced against the best in the world, and won the silver medal. It was a phenomenal achievement.

It took great physical courage to overcome her burns.

It also took great mental courage to keep persevering in the face of so many obstacles. She is an inspiration to us all.

More inspiring stories

If you enjoyed a story of physical courage, then you will enjoy the story of Aaron Ralston. He was an American climber who became trapped on a rock face, miles from the nearest help.

A boulder landed on his arm. He was starving to death.

What did he do? He used his penknife to saw off his own arm.

If you would like to read about courage of a different kind, then try the story of Aung San Suu Kyi.

She opposed the military government in Burma, believing that they were oppressing the Burmese people.

As a result they imprisoned her in her own house in 1989. She continued to protest even when they set her free, and has been imprisoned again. Has this silenced her?

No, of course not. Her story is yet another inspiration to us all to fight for our dreams and our beliefs.