Beyond the Build


Dream Big.

Last weekend, I got to attend the United States Olympian and Paralympians Association Reunion in Colorado Springs as a guest of Jennifer Chandler, a gold medalist diver (spring board). This group reconnects every four years, bringing together fellow athletes who competed on the world stage to get briefed on future Olympic games. This time we heard about Paris ’24 and LA ’28. It was wonderful for me to meet many of the Paralympians who have overcome immense challenges with a “can-do” spirit that I hope to emulate. There was a camaraderie between all the athletes, regardless which branch of the games they completed in. It was a weekend well spent along with a chance to visit the new Olympic and Paralympic Museum and the Olympic Training Center. Both were impressive, but not nearly as much as those athletes I had the chance to talk with.

Beyond the phenomenal paralympians I mentioned earlier, I got to visit with Greg Louganis, a diver who won gold in 1984 and 1988 springboard and platform competitions, Billy Mills, an American Oglala Lakota athlete from South Dakota who won a gold medal in the 10,000 meter run in Tokyo, 1964 and Willie Banks, a triple jump athlete who set world records. Willie also earned the rank of Eagle Scout, dear to my heart, and currently serves as an elected member of the World Athletics Council. These athletes are beyond motivational, especially knowing the countless hours they put in over many years, thriving at what they cherished.

I also was given the chance to encourage a future Olympian. Our tour guide at the Olympic Training center was a recent Princeton graduate training to compete in the next Olympics as a Grego-Roman wrestler. In school, he studied Civil Engineering and was wondering if he was doing the right thing to pause his career and pursue his dream of competing in the Paris 2024 games and beyond. I told him what I would tell my own children: Seize opportunity while it is there, because the greatest regrets in life are the things left undone. He’ll never regret trying.

Merrill Stewart Jr.

Merrill Stewart is Founder and CEO of The Stewart/Perry Company, a commercial building contractor based in Birmingham.