Mike Powell, Carl Lewis, Willie Banks at Foreign Press Club of Japan

There’s something special to be in the presence of champion athletes in a world-class all their own:

Carl Lewis, arguably the greatest track and field athlete of all time (10 Olympic Gold metals, former 100 meters world record-holder),

Mike Powell (who still holds the world record in the long jump, 8.95 meters),

Willie Banks, (triple-jump world record holder), philosophical, eloquent, spiritual

Dai Tamesue, former Japanese Olympian, who brought the group together.

There’s something even more special, inspirational actually, that these great athletes came together to coach young kids at the Tohoku Sports Summit 2013, consisting of two events, the Tohoku Sports Coaching Conference held in Sendai on March 23, and the World Record Camps held in Ishinomaki City on March 24. Before the World Record Camps, the sports champions visited Kadowaki-cho in Ishinomaki City to lay flower wreaths in memory of the victims of March 11.

Tokyo Olympics 2020!

Humble, self-effacing, the athletes talked in soft, poignant tones about their volunteer work in Tohoku. “When we told the kids that we would see some of them in the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, and “saw their faces light up, we knew we had changed lives,” commented Willie Banks.

There’s a touch of “fortuna” or perhaps “irony,” that Wille Banks’ birthday is March 11, and he spoke of how the news of the earthquake and tsunami shook him, a long-standing admirer of Japanese culture. Seeing first-hand the devastation of Tohoku, and the “smiles, laughter, enjoyment of the kids, shows that hope and love will provide the strength for the region to rise again.”

The athletes offered advice to those who aspire to achieve greatness in athletics, yet their tips apply to any leader in pursuit of excellence:

“Never put yourself in a situation where you later ask yourself why you did not try something. Try, and finish with no regrets, knowing that you have done your best.”

“Have a goal, want something badly, passionately. Persevere, and be determined to overcome adversity, turning it into something inspirational.”

“The most important element to become a great athlete is to consider your family as your strongest team. Coaches and trainers are good to teach you technique, but a family’s support is overarching.”

All the best,

Warren J. Devalier