Some athletes wow us with their sheer physical brilliance, others through displays of courage, poise and passion, or by their willingness to push limits, break barriers and hoist fans’ hopes on their shoulders. This week’s Sports Illustrated celebrates those special stars—the inspiring performers who made 2012 a sports year to remember.
For their refusal to be silent victims of sexual abuse, two of those performers, New York Mets knuckleballer and 2012 National League Cy Young award winner R.A. Dickey and 2012 Olympic judo gold medalist Kayla Harrison are featured on the cover of this week’s Sports Illustrated. In a year when the Jerry Sandusky scandal at Penn State rocked the sports world, award-winning SI senior writer Gary Smith asks us to reimagine, a century from now, looking back on the plague of sexual abuse and celebrating the courage of Dickey and Harrison, who shined a light on a dark history.
Both were abused as children—Dickey by a babysitter and a stranger, Harrison by her judo coach—and the pain of abuse became part of who they were. Smith describes the torture Dickey and Harrison had to endure en route to breaking their silence, and how they support victims who now have the courage to tell their own stories.
“My heart broke for those boys in the Penn State scandal because I knew what they would be up against,” Dickey would say. “And then … I felt for Jerry Sandusky because of what happened to him in his life. The toxicity of it all is so frightening. It energized me, made me see that there’s a real need for activism. The taboo’s been breached. Finally the elephant in the room is out—it’s raising its trunk and bellowing” (page 66).
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Sports Illustrated is giving fans the opportunity to select the Most Inspiring Performer of 2012. Beginning today fans can go to Facebook.com/SportsIllustrated and rank their favorites among 15 candidates selected by SI’s editors. The Fans’ Choice will be included in the Dec. 17 issue of the magazine. Fans have through Wednesday, November 28 to vote.
The Top 15 candidates include ten Olympians from the London 2012 Olympic Games, six whom are women.
- Peyton Manning (Denver Broncos Quarterback)
- Chuck Pagano (Indianapolis Colts Head Coach)
- Jeremy Lin (Houston Rockets Point Gaurd)
- Alex Zanardi (Italian racing driver and paracyclist)
- Missy Franklin (Team USA Olympic Swimmer)
- Gabby Douglas (Team USA Olympic Gymnast)
- Andy Murray (Tennis Player)
- Megan Rapinoe (Team USA Women’s Soccer Midfielder)
- Jessica Ennis (British track and field athlete)
- R.A. Dickey (New York Mets Pitcher)
- Manti Te’o (Notre Dame Linebacker)
- Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh Jennings (Team USA Women’s Volleyball)
- Bradley Wiggins (British Cyclist)
- Mo Farah (British track and field athlete)
- Oscar Pistorius (South African sprinter)
In the following weeks SI will be asking fans to vote on Picture of the Year (balloting begins Nov. 29 for the Dec. 24 issue) and Moment of the Year (Dec. 6 for the cover of the Dec. 31 year-end issue).