News Release

Spirit of Parapan Am Athletes Resonates With Mormon Beliefs

Being in the presence of 1,600 world-class athletes, each with a physical or cognitive disability, is a lesson in humility and esteem. For Fulvio Martinez, a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints with an official mandate to manage the daily victory celebrations at the Toronto 2015 Parapan Am Games (August 7–15), it was a privilege to be in their company.

Faith and endurance are hallmarks of greatness, and there was no shortage of either at this event. This caused Martinez, manager of community outreach and media relations, to reflect on the strength within each of us.

“So much of the power of sports resembles the power of the Almighty, sometimes intervening for us, but mostly giving us the confidence to find the divine within us, helping us reach new heights, find new strengths and build new hope through struggle, sacrifice and dedication,” Martinez said.

“The fact is,” he added, “we will all experience pain. However, we will not all channel pain in our lives for good. I believe God wants us to look at every situation we have to face in life and ask ourselves: How can I learn from this? How can I grow? How can I be stronger?”

Disabilities from birth or accidents later in life haven’t sidelined these Parapan Am athletes — some without sight, others missing limbs. Records were surpassed in a broad spectrum of sports, including archery, cycling, javelin, sitting volleyball, track and wheelchair tennis. Physical or intellectual limitations have not slowed the drive of these athletes to be the best they can be.

President Dieter F. Uchtdorf of the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints says this desire to excel is within all of us. “Another thing we need to remember when it comes to setting goals is this: We almost certainly will fail — at least in the short term. But rather than be discouraged, we can be empowered because this understanding removes the pressure of being perfect right now.

“It acknowledges from the beginning that at one time or another, we may fall short,” he added.

“Knowing this up front takes away much of the surprise and discouragement of failure. … Even though we might fall short of our finish line, just continuing the journey will make us greater than we were before” (“The Best Time to Plant a Tree,” Ensign, Jan. 2014).

Saad Rafi, Toronto 2015 Pan Am and Parapan Am Games CEO, said, “Victory in life is really about courage, strength and perseverance. It tells family the ideals to live by, especially the young ones. And that really is a true legacy and the ultimate victory.”

“My Moment of Victory,” a short video shown every night before the medal winners took to the stage at the victory celebrations, included cameos from well-known personalities Rick Hansen and Michael “Pinball” Clemons. The video speaks to the indomitable spirit of these competitors, all of them winners.

A multi-faith room was set up in accordance with the International Olympic Committee standards and was often visited by the athletes for a spiritual lift either before or after competing, winning or not. Martinez noticed a copy of the Koran and other religious books and decided to add a few copies of the Book of Mormon.

Hours after winning a bronze medal in table tennis, an Argentinian athlete, through his interpreter, expressed appreciation for the way these Games “erase differences and make us all equal and capable to achieve our objectives.”

Style Guide Note:When reporting about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, please use the complete name of the Church in the first reference. For more information on the use of the name of the Church, go to our online Style Guide.