One of the United States’ star athletes in the 1970s was Bruce Jenner. He had dyslexia and always struggled with his reading and writing in school. He turned to sports and discovered he was a very talented athlete with a flair for many sports: water skiing, American football, basketball and track, to name a few. Football was always his favourite and he decided to try to pursue a professional career after a difficult four years academically in high school.
Magic Johnson was a star player in the ‘Dream Team’ – the U.S. men’s basketball team in the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona, Spain. Did you know he is also dyslexic? From a young age, Magic (whose real first name is Earvin) struggled to read and write, performing poorly in school. He says that this early challenge spurred him on to work harder to be the best “The looks, the stares, the giggles . . . I wanted to show everybody that I could do better and also that I could read.”
We have reached the final instalment in our series on dyslexic Olympic athletes, and we've saved the best for last. Sir Steven Redgrave is the only person to have won gold medals at five consecutive games...if you step back and consider that each Olympics is four years apart, that is a staggering statistic! From 1984 to 2000, Redgrave ruled in men's rowing at the Olympics and world championships.
And he did all of this while struggling with diabetes, colitis and severe dyslexia.
As a child with dyslexia, he had big problems with reading and writing. At ten years of age, he couldn't keep up with the rest of his peers in class, and remembers feeling ashamed and stupid.
"I did the same subjects as everyone else but found it hard to keep up, and always knew I wasn't going to pass my 11-plus."
He had special lessons with the headmistress, and spent a lot of extra time working on his reading. Still now, despite all the extra work, he still sees letters upside-down or backwards. He relied on his natural intelligence to get him through school.
"With dyslexia, your other senses become sharper. My memory was great at school but it has become appalling these days!"
In total, Redgrave has won 17 gold medals, 2 silver, and 2 bronze at the Olympics, Rowing World Championships and Commonwealth games. He is an inspiration to aspiring athletes and dyslexics everywhere.
Since my son is an avid basketball player and a lover of the sport, I wanted to add Magic Johnson to the list of famous persons with the gift of dyslexia.
Magic Johnson struggled with reading during his early childhood school years. He was laughed at and stared at becuase he couldn't read well, especially in front of others. Instead of giving up, he decided to take out his frustrations on the basketball court. Magic wanted to prove to others that he could be great at both reading and basketball.
Magic Johnson went on to succeed in the NBA playing for the Los Angeles Lakers.
Today, Magic Johnson travels and speaks to thousands of children and adults who are looking to overcome challenges, like the one he faced as a little boy in the classroom.
Billy Blanks is best known for his skill in whipping people into shape with Taebo, his combination of tae kwon do and boxing. He is also known for his iconic roles in several action films. What's less known about Blanks is that he always struggled with reading due to his undiagnosed dyslexia.
Frank Gore, NFL running back for the San Francisco 49ers, was diagnosed with dyslexia as a child. He struggled with school and had difficulties performing several types of tasks. Playing football was a way for him to escape his classroom woes.