Last week I had the privilege of attending one of the most heartfelt, emotionally charged and inspiring events I have ever been a part of. It was the Regina portion of the “Never Give Up” tour, which is put on by The Saskatchewan Sports Hall of Fame with help from our friends at SaskEnergy. It featured stories from two individuals whose lives and careers have been full of action, excitement and life lessons like few others, even in a sporting world where incredible stories seem to be commonplace.
The event started with a couple of great introductions, which gave our elementary school audience a premise for the almost unbelievable tales they were about to hear. First up was Regina-born Kia Byers, who has accomplished more in less than three decades than most would hope to in an entire lifetime.
Her story is one of dedication and success which was driven by her motivation to achieve a number of goals and supported by a loving family, great coaches and teammates and an entire country behind her as she worked day in and day out for nearly fourteen years to get where she is today.
Along her path there were numerous setbacks, from injuries, to losses, to near misses that may have forced a lesser-driven athlete to abandon their dreams all together. Instead, Kia used them as fuel to pull herself off the proverbial mat and continue pushing forward, willing herself to never give up.
As she grew somewhat older and in the process wiser, Kia found a way to quantify her progression and accomplishments, which would not only help her stay the course, but also feel rewarded on her way to achieving her long-term goals.
She spoke to our young audience about the importance of setting targets for yourself, not only on a grandiose scale like she had with the Olympic Games, but also taking smaller steps along the way like giving yourself personal bests for the sport or activity you are participating in.
Perhaps more importantly however, Kia talked about how her journey has shown her that being a top-level athlete is not the most paramount thing in life. When something like an injury happens, even the most accomplished in a sport are forced to look at life outside of competition and this lead Kia to reflect on herself and refocus on becoming “The best Kia” she could be.
Our second speaker, who throughout his life has been of the mindset that a solid background in sport and athletics should merely serve as a platform to create an outstanding individual, later reiterated this lesson.
This was especially touching in Kia’s case because, while she is no longer actively in the sport of Sprint Kayaking competitively, she is about to embark on her most rewarding journey to date as an expectant mother. With these unforgettable lessons and experiences under her belt, there was not a single doubt in the entire audience that both the young mom and her child will continue to set a great example of how sport can help to mold incredible individuals who not only inspire us, but serve the world well in their daily lives.
The second speaker who I mentioned above, has been the focus of the Never Give Up tour as his book of the same name has served as the focal point of previous presentations and continues to not only inspire the young audiences he addresses, but countless readers and adults he has spoken to over the years.
His name is Ted Jaleta and his accomplishments as a distance runner, which are quite impressive, continue to be overshadowed by his story of survival and the way he inspires hundreds of people to continue on in the face of adversity, even when the odds seem insurmountable against them.
Ted was born and raised in Ethiopia; where the hurdles he faced make most in our daily lives seem like mere speed bumps. While his mother and father had never been exposed to any level of education themselves, there was nothing more important in their eyes than for their son to have a chance for a better life; they saw this opportunity through education.
Young Ted first found he was a gifted runner not through love for the sport, as he was unaware that even existed. Rather he honed his skills with the miles of running he had to do each day in order to get to and from school. For Ted running was a means of daily transportation before it was ever a means to see the world through competition of any sort. If you were to ask him nearly fifty years ago a younger Jaleta had aspirations of a World Cup soccer title and none of international road racing success.
While his skill as a runner maybe have come by accident, it did lead Ted to national level success and even saw him groomed as a potential Olympian who might one day represent his country on the world’s biggest stage.
After years of struggling to attain an education while growing as a racer, Ted was faced with more adversity as he attempted to pursue post secondary knowledge. During this time, Ted was persecuted within his nation and forced to flee and hide just to survive.
After spending time literally on the run and seeking refuge at a camp in Kenya, Mr. Jaleta was fortunate enough to be sponsored by the Canadian government and find a new home here in Regina, where he has resided since 1982.
In the years since arriving here, he has once again overcome struggle. This time it was not survival that he was worried about but rather, fitting in and making a life for himself in a city, and country which he knew next to nothing about.
Like Kia however, strong life lessons had been learned along his journey and he used the knowledge he had gained over the years to persevere and strive unwaveringly for as long as he needed to see his dreams become a reality.
Ted is now happily married with a beautiful family and spends his time working and speaking with the youth of the community, looking only to give them the same incredible opportunities he has been able to take advantage of. He still runs of course, only it is no longer with the same consequence it once was, nor as Ted will tell you, with the same speed.
At the end of the day, the curious young minds that filled the auditorium where filled with many new thoughts, questions and of course the important knowledge and inspiration they need so that when life deals them a set back, they too will find a way to never give up.
Thanks again to our presenting sponsor, SaskEnergy, as well as The Regina Performing Arts Center for the amazing opportunity to hear these two incredible stories told. I would like to invite all of you to take some time and find out a little more about Kia and Ted, as the few words I have written here simply do not do them justice.
Read more about Kia Byers at her website – www.kiabyers.com
Find more on Ted Jaleta via his online resource – www.tedjaleta.com
as well as right here at The Saskatchewan Sports Hall of Fame on:
Ted Jaleta’s Inductee Profile Page.