July 27, 2009 by Ryan Eickel
This has been a great weekend for me. On Friday, I headed to Richmond with my good friends Jay and Ross to visit Skyler, another friend who just recently arrived back in the States from Morocco. We had a great dinner at a hibachi restaurant and spent most of Saturday by the pool. Tough life, I know. We even had the chance to see Skyler’s mom twirl flame-lit batons, which was quite the spectacle!
It was also the final weekend of the 2009 Tour de France. Many of you have probably read that Alberto Contador sped down the Champs-Élysées in Paris on Sunday to claim his second title. More impressive, however, was Lance Armstrong’s performance after a three and a half year break. As the record-holder for the most Tour de France wins, many viewers were unsure of whether or not Lance would be capable of competing at the same caliber. Although he may not have the same strength that he did in the past, he consistently rode well and ended up finishing in third. This may seem unimpressive for someone who has already won the title seven different times, but it is still an amazing accomplishment. I have been following the Tour since the first stage, so I was especially proud to see how well Lance finished. While he certainly had hopes to be successful on his bike, Lance made his comeback for one reason and one reason only: to fight for the 28 million people affected by cancer worldwide. As the founder of the Lance Armstrong Foundation, he hoped that his return to cycling would bring light to the fact that cancer is quickly becoming the #1 killer in the world, and there is a lot that can be done about it. Looking back over the past three weeks, I would say that he was hugely successful.
It is a pretty well-known fact among my friends and family that I idolize Lance Armstrong. In addition to John F. Kennedy, he is someone that I look up to and greatly respect-a role model. If you visit my dorm room during the school year, you will see quotes and posters of Lance scattered across the walls. You will also never catch me without my Livestrong wristband or Nalgene bottle. Why? Well, he is remarkably talented. His athletic accomplishments alone are noteworthy. But more importantly, he has consistently used his fame and resources to help lead the fight against cancer. Last summer, I was lucky enough to attend a Livestrong Summit in Columbus, Ohio with my friend Matt. It was one of the most extraordinary experiences of my life. Throughout the three day program, I had the chance to listen to different keynote speakers, including John McCain, Sanjay Gupta, and Lance Armstrong himself. I also attended daily sessions on how to fundraise and advocate for cancer.
While these speakers and sessions were very informative, I was taken aback by the other participants. There were hundreds of people in attendance, and they represented all different races and age groups. The majority of those at the Summit were cancer survivors-some of the strongest and most inspiring people that I have ever met. It was extremely moving to be among people who were so excited and eager to make a difference in their own lives and the lives of millions of others. Every single person at the conference was willing to share their own story, listen to those of the people around them, and get to work on fighting cancer. By the end of the Summit, Matt and I decided that we wanted to continue the fight in our own community by starting a Livestrong Army at William and Mary, which we are working vigorously to do.
There are many times that I hear people say that they do not respect Lance because of issues within his marriage or family. While I cannot speak to his personal life, I can say that his cycling accomplishments and his achievements through the Lance Armstrong Foundation are absolutely worthy of respect. At the Summit, I had the chance to see the hope that his life has instilled in so many others. People recently diagnosed with cancer will look to Lance, see his post-cancer success, and think to themselves: I can beat this. He is a living example of someone who has fought with so much strength to live his life and live it to the fullest.
I am fortunate enough to not have cancer, but I too am inspired on a daily basis by Lance Armstrong. So, you can certainly understand why I am thrilled to see that he finished third in yet another Tour de France. In August, he will compete in the Tour of Ireland and will subsequently lead the Livestrong Global Cancer Summit in Dublin, Ireland. There is not a doubt in my mind that great things will come from this Summit and from the Lance Armstrong Foundation in the years ahead.
I’ll leave you with a brand new Nike commercial, which I think perfectly portrays Lance’s hopeful and optimistic attitude: “I’m not back on my bike for them.”
Also, check out Lance’s Promise.
Thanks for reading and congratulations, Lance!