5 People Who Defied Odds To Pursue Their Dreams
Elizabeth Blackwell was the first woman to receive a Medical Degree in the United States. In January of 1849, she ascended the platform of the Presbyterian Church in Geneva, NY and received her diploma from Geneva Medical College. Blackwell turned to medicine when a dying friend said she "would have been spared her worst suffering if her physician had been a woman."
Eight years after she earned her diploma, she opened the New York Infirmary in 1857. By doing this she was not only able to practice medicine, but she also provided women with the opportunities to expand their skills as physicians. Blackwell's support for equal rights preceded her medical vocation. When she was eleven, her family moved to American from England to help abolish slavery. When her father died, she and her siblings carried on his legacy by continuing their support for women's rights and the anti-slavery movement.
The youngest jockey to win the Kentucky Derby was 15-year-old Alonzo Lonnie Clayton, in 1892. Shortly after the teen rider rose to fame, he became one of the highest paid riders on the east coast. Those were great beginnings for a boy who, three years prior to his first Kentucky Derby, ran away from home to join his older brother Albertus, who was also a jockey.
Some believe racism caused Lonnie to leave America in the early 1900s to race horses in England. According to Forbes writer, Theresa Genaro, Horse racing was dominated by black jockeys--slave owners did not hesitate to put their slaves on the track for informal races. By the time racing became a more organized sport, "black boys and men were [the vanguard] in the saddle, dominating the races until the turn of the century." The early 1900s was a time of racial tension, and black jockeys were pushed off the track. It was likely that Lonnie was also pushed out and went overseas like so many others.
Tom Waddell might be the best living manifestation of a renaissance man. In high school he excelled at both football and gymnastics, attended Springfield College on a track scholarship, and then attended New Jersey College of Medicine. At the age of 30 he was a Decathlon. By the mid-70s, he and his partner, Charles Deaton, were the first gay men to be featured in the "Couples" section of People magazine.
It wasn't long before he was inspired by a gay bowling competition to organize the Gay Games, which first took place in San Francisco in 1982. Waddell was an athlete, a physician, an olympian and an activist. When he died of AIDS related complications, a family friend asked his daughter, Jessica, what she wanted to do when she grew up. She said, "Everything."
Fauja Singh ran his last marathon at age 101. The Londoner began running after a bout of depression that set in after he lost his wife and fifth son. In 2011, Singh became the oldest full-marathon runner after completing the Toronto marathon in 5 hours and 40 minutes. According to Vibe, His final race, the Hong Kong 10K, was completed by Singh in an hour and 32 minutes. "From a tragedy has come a lot of success and happiness," Singh said before the race.
Christmas Joy Abbot is the first female to have a shot at being a NASCAR Pit Crew Member. The elite-leve fitness athlete put everything on hold to move to Charlotte, NC so she could pursue her dream of being a front-tire changer on a Sprint Cup. Her coach, Shaun Peet, suspected it was a publicity stunt, but he soon came round when he realized she's in it for the real deal.