Full Frame: Defying the odds

Full Frame

Athletes are known for beating the odds and overcoming obstacles. But then there are some athletes who never give up, who chase their dreams with persistence and ferocity, and who refuse to see failure as an endpoint.

This week on Full Frame, we’ll talk to some of these remarkable athletes: a swimmer, a mountaineer, and an aerialist-acrobat, all of whom have defied the odds and had an impact far beyond the field.

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Tune into Full Frame on CCTV America at 6:00 p.m. EST Jan. 17, 2015. Or watch the live stream of the program here.

Diana Nyad: Never Give Up

In 2013, Diana Nyad accomplished a lifelong dream. At age 64, she became the first person to swim unassisted from Cuba to Florida.

Upon reaching the shore in Key West, after swimming 110 miles in 53 hours, Nyad, shaky and sunburned, lips swollen from salt water, summoned the strength to share three messages. “One is,” she said, “we should never, ever give up. Two is, you’re never too old to chase your dreams. Three is, it looks like a solitary sport, but it’s a team.”

It took Nyad five attempts to complete the epic swim. Already a record-shattering distance swimmer, she had attempted the Cuba-Florida swim for the first time in 1978 at age 28, but was blown off course by strong winds. Thirty years later, as she neared her 60th birthday, she decided to revive her decades-long dream.

Nyad’s historic accomplishment represents the pinnacle of athletic achievement, but her feat is an inspiration to us all, athlete or not — proof that any dream, no matter how seemingly impossible, is worth chasing.

Out of the water, Nyad continues to inspire people through her words and by her example. In addition to her motivational speeches, Nyad has spoken out about her history of sexual abuse, encouraging others to do the same.

And in the summer of 2016, Nyad and best friend and team leader, Bonnie Stoll, plan to embark on another journey: walking across the country, from Los Angeles to Washington, D.C., in an effort to decrease the country’s obesity rate.

On this week’s episode of Full Frame, Nyad sits down with Mike Walter in the studio to discuss her source of motivation, what kept her going as she swam mile after mile, and what she sees now when see looks out at that “great blue sea.”

Follow Diana Nyad on Twitter: @diananyad


Making it to the top: Lessons on leadership

Alison Levine is a woman who knows what it takes to make it to the top. After all, she’s climbed the highest peak on every continent.

Levine belongs to an elite group of 41 people who’ve completed the Adventurers Grand Slam – climbing the Seven Summits (the highest mountain peaks on each of the seven continents) and skiing to both the North and South Poles.  Upon reaching the South Pole in 2008, she became the first American to complete the 600-mile journey from west Antarctica.

Her quest began in 1998, when she successfully summited her first mountain, Mount Kilimanjaro, at the age of 32. The next five summits came quickly after that, until 2002, when Levine set out to climb the world’s highest and most famous mountain, Mount Everest.

Levine, serving as the captain of the first American Women’s Everest Expedition, and her team spent nearly two months on the mountain, ascending and descending and ascending again to acclimatize their bodies to the altitude. But on the final day of climbing, as they were just a few hundred feet shy of the summit, bad weather conditions forced them to turn back.

Eight years later, in 2010, she successfully reached Everest’s summit, securing a place in history and her spot in the Grand Slam group.

But Levine maintains that she learned more from that first failed attempt at Everest: a lesson she imparts to her students at the United States Military Academy at West Point, where she lectures on leadership, building teams, and making decisions in extreme environments. These lessons are also highlighted in her bestselling book, On The Edge: The Art of High Impact Leadership.

In addition to her mountaineering accomplishments, Levine has also had a successful career in business. She earned her MBA at Duke University, spent time on Wall Street, and advised Arnold Schwarzenegger in his bid for governor of California. And in 2005, she founded the Climb High Foundation, a non-profit that trains women to work as trekking guides and porters in their local mountains.

For Levine, it was a way for her to combine her love of mountaineering with her desire to give back. For the women in the Rwenzori Mountains, a range on the border of Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo, it is a life changing step toward financial stability and independence in a male-dominated society.

Levine joins Mike Walter to share the lessons she has learned in some of the world’s harshest, most dangerous environments, and about her hopes for expanding the reach of the Climb High Foundation.

Follow Alison Levine on Twitter: @Levine_Alison

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When “Can’t” is a four-letter word

Growing up, Jen Bricker didn’t use the word “can’t” – there was nothing she couldn’t do, despite the fact that she was born without legs.

Raised by her adoptive parents Gerald and Sharon in a small town in Illinois, Bricker grew up thinking she was no different than any of the other kids. And to the amazement of everyone around her, she succeeded in following her dreams — competing and winning titles in softball, basketball, volleyball, and gymnastics.

She was particularly enthralled with gymnastics, and her idol, Dominique Moceanu, whom she remembers watching on television and thinking, “Wouldn’t it be funny if we were related?” It was a possibility, however remote in her mind, as she knew her biological parents were Romanian like Moceanu’s family.

But when she was nearly sixteen, Bricker discovered that her ‘funny thought’ was reality: her longtime gymnastics idol was in fact her biological sister. Their relationship today is a modern fairytale.

Now 27 and living in Los Angeles, Bricker is an accomplished aerialist and acrobat. She toured internationally in 2009, performing with Britney Spears on tour. She has also headlined shows at the Palazzo in Las Vegas, the Lincoln Center in New York, and the Shangri La Hotel in Dubai.

On this week’s Close-Up, we meet Jen Bricker and learn about her unlikely, yet happy-ending story.

Follow Jen Bricker on Twitter: @JenBricker1

Like Jen Bricker on Facebook.

Follow Dominique Moceanu on Twitter: @dmoceanu

Like Dominique Moceanu on Facebook