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Ruben Gonzalez

the Luge Man

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The Florida Times - Feb 9th, 2003

Olympian brings motivation to Mayport students

By Beau Halton
Talk of the Town

The Marine Science Education Center student -- large with long, curly hair and adorned in a black rock 'n' roll T-shirt -- fixed his eyes on Ruben Gonzalez last week after the three-time Olympian gave a motivational speech at the Mayport school.

The student awaited his turn to greet Gonzalez, then testified from his heart:

"We've had a lot speakers, and a lot of it's sounded like B.S. But this made a lot of sense."

Gonzalez, an Argentinean immigrant who says he was never an athlete in his younger years, began his quest to make it to the Olympics at age 21, an age that U.S. Olympic officials told him was "10 years too late." He picked the luge, an event in which supposedly clear-thinking humans lie on their backs on a tiny sliver of sled and screech down icy labyrinth courses at 80 mph -- feet first, unprotected and millimeters away from bone-breaking mistakes.

But Gonzalez didn't show up at the Mayport school, a place for high school students who have had difficulty at other schools, to boast. Just the opposite. He wanted to share the message that these students, who might be full of self-doubt, have the same shot that he did at success. He was there to share the formula that he had always heard and that he used: You decide on your dream. You deal with your struggles. And you achieve victory.


Olympic motivational speaker will inspire your group to greater achievement.

  Olympian Ruben Gonzalez of Argentina shows students the Olympic torch during the motivation speech he gave at the Marine Science Education Center in Mayport.

-- Beau Halton/staff

"I was never a big shot," Gonzalez said repeatedly to a classroom full of students and teachers. "I was a little shot who kept on shooting."

First he researched the sports that were available to him as a non-elite athlete. He pared his options down to the bobsled, the ski jump and the luge. Being a Houston resident, he deduced that training in hot weather wouldn't cut it for bobsled or ski jump. He called Sports Illustrated magazine and asked how to qualify for the Olympics. People at the magazine directed him to U.S. Olympic officials who were stationed in Lake Placid, N.Y. after the 1980 winter Olympics. Those officials told him he should have started training for the luge at age 10. But he persisted.

In 1984, he started training for the 1988 winter Olympics in Calgary, Canada, as a representative of Argentina. Many crashes and many broken bones later, he qualified to compete in Calgary, where he placed 32nd. He was 31st in 1992 at Albertville, France and, at age 39, 41st in Salt Lake City.

He was one of the 200 Olympians selected to be torchbearers for the Salt Lake City games. He was chosen for the way he embodies the Olympic spirit and for inspiring others.

Here are some of Gonzalez's messages to the Mayport students:

Decide what your unique qualities are, then let that help you formulate your dream.

Successful people all have one thing in common -- they persevere; they never quit.

Don't hang out with people who you have influence over. Hang out with people who you admire.

Belief in yourself is like muscles; they both take time to develop.

To be a leader, you must be trustworthy. "Your word is worth its weight in gold."

No matter how hard your struggle gets, never quit. "Stand in front of the mirror and say over and over again, 'I'm not going to quit.' You'll feel like Superman or Wonder Woman."

Talk to others about your goals, especially people who encourage you.

Knowledge isn't power, applied knowledge is power. "You've got to do the work."

Keep thinking positively about yourself. Don't scold yourself for making mistakes, applaud yourself for not repeating them.

The Olympics aren't about sports. They're about dreams.

The space between success and failure can be extremely thin. At Salt Lake City, the luge gold medalist went 85 mph. Gonzalez went 84; he placed 41st.














Olympic Motivational Speaker

Ruben Gonzalez

Salt Lake City Olympics - 84 MPH - click here



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