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Obstacle or Advantage? – The Incredible Story of Anthony Robles

Anthony Robles

This weekend was the collegiate national wrestling championships. As I watched it briefly I was reminded of a great wrestler named Anthony Robles. I first heard about Anthony when he was in high school, he being from my home town of Mesa, AZ. He later wrestled at my Alma Mater, Arizona State University. But these aren’t the reasons I followed Anthony. I was more intrigued by the fact that he was having so much success in spite of being born with just one leg.

That’s right. For no known reason, he was born without one leg. Unfortunately, he doesn’t have any kind of a stump, so there are no prosthetic legs that will work for him. From a young age he had to learn how to manage with crutches or by hopping on his left leg. Fast forward 21 years and he stands triumphantly at the center of the mat as an undefeated national champion, with a perfect 36-0 record.

I won’t go through all of the incredible details of how he overcame his obstacles, you can find those in Anthony’s book: Unstoppable.

What I want to focus on was some of the commentary to come out the day after he won. There were a number of sportswriters who made the observation that it would be much easier it would be to be a wrestler with just one leg. They talked about what an unfair advantage it was.

Robles Wrestling

At first I was a little angry that someone would have the nerve to insinuate that being born with such a disability was an unfair advantage. But the more I thought about it, I realized they were right. It IS a big advantage to have one less limb for a competitor to grab. It opens up new options as far as escapes and take downs go.

The truth is, however, that the disability was only an advantage because Anthony decided it could be. It would have been easy for Anthony or his parents to decide that sports just weren’t something he was going to be good at. They could have easily pushed him into merely academic pursuits. But they didn’t. At a young age Anthony decided to break the grade school record for most push-ups. Later he discovered wrestling. He didn’t succeed at first. But he stuck with it and in the end became a champion in more ways then one.

So the questions for each of us is: When life throws us that curve ball, how do we take it?

Zig Ziglar once said, “You cannot tailor-make the events that happen to you in life but you can tailor-make your response to them.” What a true statement! Every single one of us has had things happen in our life that would make us partially justified in saying, “I’m not happy because of ______” or, “I never get looked at for that promotion because of _________.” “I could never be ________ because of ________”. We can all point to some reason, and most people would agree with us and be very understanding.

But what then? At that point we have given over our progress, our ability, our ambitions to someone or something else. Our future is dictated to us externally instead of from within. We have abdicated our right to be the “master of our fate.” Events in life will happen whether we want them to or not. When they do, we have to decide if we are going to take those events and find some way to turn them into an advantage. And believe me, just about any terrible event can be turned into an opportunity for growth, learning, and even success.

Many people like to point to victims of rape or abuse and say, “What about them? How can that ever be a positive thing?” It is a good and fair question. I would never say that those things are good or that it would ever be easy to turn it into something beneficial. I have, however, met many men and women who have survived those situations and are now out there educating thousands of others about how to recognize or avoid them. They have a story that can literally change or save the lives of thousands of other people. Their story is one that I cannot tell. I do not have the right to do it because I have not experienced it. What happened to them is horrible, but they have found a way to use it for a positive result. Many of them even make a good living doing it.

Robles Stop at Nothing

So what have you experienced lately? What setback is keeping you from moving forward? I challenge each of us to take a look at those obstacles and decide if there isn’t some way to turn them into an advantage. If we can do it, I have no doubt that in the end we will be able to be declared champions like Anthony.


More about Anthony’s story can be found HERE

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