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OVERVIEW: Olympic victories come in all shapes and sizes. Last night a 28-year-old Australian proved how to lose the battle but win the war against physical and emotional Terrorism. Find out how she did it, and how you can become an Olympic Sentinel of Vigilance each day by following her Olympic footsteps.

GROUND ZERO PLUS 1080 DAYS--New York, NY, Wednesday, August 25, 2004--PAIN! PAIN! PAIN!

Pain--That was the hallmark of an incredible victory last night by a 28-year-old Australian who showed the world what Olympic competition is all about--you don't quit no matter what.

Four of the world’s finest women’s volleyball players entered the competitive ring in Athens, Greece last night vying for the coveted Bronze Medal in women's beach volleyball. Only two would exit as victors.

But that wasn't the way it turned out. One of the players who was defeated in the game became a Champion of Vigilance. She exited with a Titanium Medal of Courage.

The Champion of Courage Over Pain is named Natalie Cook, a 2000 Olympic volleyball Gold Medallist from Australia and a 1996 Bronze Medal winner.

The President of Volleyball Australia praised Natalie Cook
Chris Schacht, President of Volleyball Australia, courtside in Athens, said of Natalie Cook, “This performance is bigger for Australian sport, and beach volleyball, than winning the Bronze medal”. “Natalie displayed courage in the face of unbelievable pain that few other athletes would endure and yet she played on and nearly won the match”.

Cook entered the Olympic competition with an injured shoulder. She had wanted reconstruction surgery months before the Olympics but was told her shoulder would not heal in time. So despite the injury, she elected to compete with her partner, Nicole Sanderson..

All went well until the middle of the Bronze Medal competition against the USA team of Holly McPeak and Elaine Youngs. Cook dived to dig out a save in the sand and was unable to get back up for a few moments. Her face twisted into a mask of pain. Tossing her head back in defiance of the pain, her jaws tightened and her eyes squinted, fighting back tears.

Her wounded arm was virtually useless. Volleyball is all about using your two arms to block, hit and set, and provides the flexibility to dig shots on the left or right. Betting pools suddenly shifted their wagers to the USA, and side bets mounted that Australia would lose the second game.

But Cook didn't let the pain defeat her will to win. She was playing as a Sentinel of Vigilance. Despite the agony, she dived and hit and blocked. Miraculously, her team won the second game. That battle for the second game was an example of how one can overcome the most difficult of painful problems.

Natalie Cook played as a Sentinel of Vigilance
Natalie Cook played as a Sentinel of Vigilance

Anyone watching Cook saw the power of purpose overpower the Beast of Defeat. One might presume that the wounded competitor would simply let the stronger team win to protect her arm from further harm. That's not Cook's Olympic style. She stood up to the Beast of Pain and stared him down. Her movements were those of a champion, not a crippled competitor. Grimacing between shots, she continued to radiate the power of Vigilance over physical and emotional Terror. Her will replaced Fear with Courage, Intimidation with Conviction, and Complacency with Right Actions.

She became an example for all of us who struggle with pain in our daily lives.

So often we, as adults, face the “pain of life.” There are times when both physical and emotional suffering drives us to the point where we see no Hope, and stand at the crossroads of defeat.

Such pain could be the result of a relationship gone bad, or being passed over for a promotion, or a marriage crumbling, or a child disappointing us, or being betrayed by a friend, or any of a myriad of human setbacks that spear the pain of defeat through us as sharply as though someone were stabbing our souls with a rusty ice pick.

What do we do under such circumstances?

It is easy for us all to want to fold our tents and become a “victim” of life’s brutal battering ram. It is easy for us succumb to the idea the world is a hammer and we are merely another nail.

But, if we are seeking to become true Sentinels of Vigilance, we can replay the incredible scene of Natalie Cook fighting the physical pain of a nearly useless shoulder and fighting back with all her will and might despite the handicap.

We can all become Olympic Champions in the tiring daily battles with our Beasts of Emotional Pain who try to kick sand in our face and whisper in our ears: "Loser!" "Nobody!" "Failure!" "Why try, you'll just lose again!"

The Beast of Terror wants us to surrender to being "a victim of life"
The Beast of Terror wants us to surrender to being "a victim of life"

We all know these voices. They haunt some of us into believing that we are far less than we really are. They are like clubs pounding us into the earth, depleting our power, making us feel smaller, weaker, more vulnerable until we finally give up fighting and surrender to being "a nobody," or accepting that any effort forward is "useless."

The Beast of Terror likes to drive us into Caves of Complacency where we shrink from all the shadows and hug ourselves in Fear of trying because we "know" we will be defeated.

That's why Natalie Cook won the Titanium Medal of Courageous Vigilance. She fought through her pain. She stood up to her own Beast of Pain.

Natalie Cook demonstrated no matter what obstacles faced her, she didn't give up
Natalie Cook demonstrated no matter what obstacles faced her, she didn't give up

Yes, part of that battle was with physical pain, but no one can deny that her emotions were shattered for a moment when she knew she could barely lift her arm. She was fighting for a Bronze Medal, and there was that moment when all her hopes were dashed.

She had to call on her Sentinels of Olympic Vigilance.

She did.

And, even though her team lost the final game and the USA garnered the Gold, her team won the second game even with Cook's crippled arm. The coach of the Australian men's beach volleyball team said "Natalie showed the men how to have heart". He hopes they follow her lead in their battle this afternoon with the Swiss.

Any child watching the game came away with a symbol that no matter what the obstacles, if you believe in what you're doing, you win, as long as you don't give up.

The Beast of Terror wants us all to give up. He wants to Intimidate us into states of Complacency where we stand by and watch the world go past us and wonder why.

The answer to that question is Natalie Cook.

She didn't let the Olympic world go by. She kept competing for the sake of competition.

We can remind ourselves and our children and loved ones that victory is not always winning the Gold Medal, but more importantly, not giving up on the belief that we can if we work for it.

Be a Natalie Cook and take the Vow of Vigilance
Be a Natalie Cook and take the Vow of Vigilance

Natalie Cook proved that one more time in yesterday's match.

She validated that a Sentinel of Vigilance doesn't give up.

You can become a Natalie Cook by taking the Vow of Vigilance. When you Pledge to fight Fear with Courage, Intimidation with Conviction, and Complacency with Right Actions that benefit future generations, you are an Olympic competitor.

Take the Pledge of Vigilance today. Let the Beast of Terror know you are a friend of Natalie Cook. Then he'll go bother someone else until they realize what you do--that winning is the attempt and not the victory.


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Swift Boat Madness: Why We Make Up Stories About Heroes

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