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Taylor Dietz

Ms. Titcombe

AP Language and Composition

28 August 2015

Game of Life

Gold medals aren't really made of gold. They're made of sweat, determination, and a

hard-to-find alloy called guts a quote by Dan Gable. Some athletes work their entire life for a

measly two seconds of glory. Championships are not won on the track, court or field.

Championships are won in the thousands of hours working up to those two seconds. During

those hours athletes learn specific lessons that can be used for the rest of their lives. Specific

lessons like how to lose with dignity, resilient optimism and perseverance. Louis Zamperini was

an Olympic runner before he joined the army during World War II, where he survived numerous

life threatening experiences. In Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and

Redemption, a novel written by Laura Hillenbrand, Hillenbrand makes the assertion that, When

he thought of his history, what resonated with him now was not all that he had suffered but the

divine love that he believed had intervened to save him (Hillenbrand 383). Louies history

contains all of the lessons he learned as an athlete. Louies athletic career helped prepare him for

the challenges he faced during the war and saved him from the challenges he faced after the war

by using the lessons he learned while being an athlete.

Resilient optimism is a big lesson that Louis used to prepare him for the war. It is perhaps

the best trait to have while overcoming tough times. During Louies training he learned to keep

going and push through the pain like Hillenbrand explained, He trained so hard that he rubbed

the skin right off one of his toes, leaving his sock bloody (Hillenbrand 23). This is an example
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of resilient optimism because even though he was in pain Louie knew that the pain was all for

the glory. He was looking on the positive side of things. This type of attitude helped him in the

war while he was in the prisoner of war camp and stranded in the ocean. In the novel Hillenbrand

wrote that, Confident that he was clever, resourceful, and bold enough to escape any

predicament, he was almost incapable of discouragement. When history carried in him into war,

this resilient optimism would define him (Hillenbrand 7). While he was stranded in the ocean

for forty-six days Louie stayed positive. He eventually made it out alive. Louie also stayed

positive while he was in the POW camp no matter how much torture he went through. He

explained it as the greatest struggle of his life (Hillenbrand 155). Although Louie got

through the greatest struggle of his life by being resiliently optimistic, it is not the only lesson

that helped him through the war.

Louis also used the lesson of perseverance many times throughout the novel. During the

war Louie was on a plane that crashed into the ocean. While the plane was sinking he got stuck

in the central nervous system of the plane. He had to try and untangle himself from the wires and

swim out of a sinking plane and up to the surface. He eventually got out. Earlier in the novel,

Hillenbrand explained what Louie had to do while training to be an Olympic runner: To expand

his lung capacity, he ran to the public pool at Redondo Beach, dove to the bottom, grabbed the

drain plug, and just floated there, hanging on a little longer each time. Eventually, he could stay

underwater for three minutes and forty-five seconds (Hillenbrand 17). Louie's teenage

perseverance during his training saved his life when the plane crashed. If he had not been that

determined as a teen, he probably would have drowned when the plane crashed. Perseverance is

a big lesson that Louie learned from being an athlete, but being able to lose with dignity is

another big lesson.


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Athletes always experience failure in one way or another. However, the athlete must learn

to lose with dignity. Louie was an Olympic runner that ran in the 1936 Olympics in Berlin. He

lost while he was in Berlin but Louie was happy with his performance (Hillenbrand 37). He

still kept his dignity even when he lost. He used this exact attitude when he was held prisoner in

Japan. Hillenbrand said that, Dignity is as essential to human life as water, food, and oxygen.

The stubborn retention of it, even in the face of extreme physical hardship, can hold a man's soul

in his body long past the point at which the body should have surrendered it (Hillenbrand 189).

During his time in the prisoner of war camp, Louie was constantly being tortured and degraded.

Louie never let the degrading acts of the Japanese guards define him. It was very hard for the

prisoners to keep a sense of dignity but Louie kept his. Because Louie learned how to lose and

keep his dignity, due to his athletic training, he stayed mentally stronger than most men in the

camps.

Louies athletic career prepared and saved him from death during the war. His

perseverance saved him when the odds were almost completely not in his favor. His optimism

and how he kept his dignity helped him to keep going even when death was evident. Louie

survived and overcame the life threatening odyssey during World War II because of the lessons

he learned during his athletic career.


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Works Cited

Hillenbrand, Laura. Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption.

New York: Random House, 2010. Print.