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Olympian Nikki Stone Shares Her Spinal Injury And Discusses Her Newest Book (VIDEO)

By HERWriter
 
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Nikki Stone, who became America's first Olympic champion in the sport of inverted aerial skiing in 1998, discusses the spinal injury she overcame to compete and her newest book, "When Turtles Fly: Secrets of Successful People Who Know How To Stick Their Necks Out."

Todd Hartley:
The 2010 Vancouver Olympic Games have arrived and a member of the U.S. Olympic team, aerial skier Nikki Stone who won a gold medal in the ‘98 Winter Olympics, you may remember, in Japan. Well that made her the first American to win gold in aerial skiing and she is here to talk with us about overcoming a severe spinal injury and her book, “When Turtles Fly: Secrets of Successful People Who Know How to Stick Their Necks Out.” Hi Nikki!

Nikki Stone:
Hi, how are you?

Todd Hartley:
Nikki, I am doing great. I am so excited for you, I mean, the Olympics are just my favorite time and you just have to be bouncing off the walls.

Nikki Stone:
I am. It produces a spirit that I think is really contagious and I have been a junkie my whole life. Ever since I was 5-years-old I saw Nadia Comaneci score a perfect 10; I had built my own Olympic podium out of tables and chairs and it’s been a fever for me ever since.

Todd Hartley:
Oh that is so cool. Now let’s, there’s nothing more addicting than the Olympic song, right?

Nikki Stone:
That’s right.

Todd Hartley:
And as it always goes in and out of commercials but I am sure when you think back to 1998 in the Winter Olympics in Japan you got to think about your spinal injury and, can you take us back to that point and also talk with us about what you went through physically and mentally?

Nikki Stone:
Most definitely. Two years before the ‘98 Olympics I had a spinal injury and it was actually from the compression over times. As aerialists, we are flipping and twisting 50 feet in the air and so that pounding did damage to two of the discs in my lower back.

I had ten different doctors that told me they didn’t think I’d be able to return to the sport and it was devastating and I had to find a number of tools to use to come back from the injury, build up the muscles in my back to support those injured discs, and came back to competing in 1998 and of course the injury was always in the forefront of my mind, but it kind of gave me a focus to be able to pull away from all of the other distractions that the games mean, or the media, thousands and thousands of fans standing at the bottom of the hill – 40,000 fans, to be exact, and then the millions of people watching from around the world.

So, there’s a lot of pressures of the games, but for me it was almost a blessing that I was just happy to be there after my injury.

Todd Hartley:
Yeah, you seem like, in our brief time talking, you seem like a, “if there’s a will, there’s a way” kind of person?

Nikki Stone:
That’s right. I don’t give up on anything and I’m never going to do anything half way. It’s I am pushing myself to the extreme and at the Olympics I was going for gold or bust.

Todd Hartley:
Specifically, what was going on with your spine? I know you had compression, but can you talk with me about that?

Nikki Stone:
Yeah, the injury they told me was called internal disc disruption and they said, “Imagine taking an egg and shaking up the egg and the inside of it becomes scrambled and the outside of it stays intact although it’s leaking fluid,” and this is what I did to two of the discs of my back and to come back from that injury I tried every exercise and procedure possible including three injections put into my spine, they would even get to burn the nerves in my back so I wouldn’t feel pain anymore because I couldn’t sit for more than half an hour; I couldn’t stand for more than 15 minutes and it was really devastating.

It was, you know, having your childhood dreams taken away from you. You at least want to feel like you gave it your best shot and I felt like this was going to be the end and luckily I found a will and a way to come back and win that first gold medal for America.

Todd Hartley:
So cool. So you talked about your childhood dreams and Nadia Comaneci who got the perfect 10 and inspired so many of us in that generation but, you also sound like a Lindsay Wagner bionic woman fan. What type of preparation do you have to do in order to bring your back, back into competitive health?

Nikki Stone:
Well it’s no easy task and one thing people asked me all the time, they say, “Who is the doctor you had, and what’s the medication you took? What’s the procedure you did?” And it really comes down to the individual. I never tell anyone to go without their doctor’s consent but we all know our bodies the best and, you know, it took a lot of hard work for me.

One thing, I talk about my book for overcoming adversity, is a tool I used. There was a quote by General George S. Patton that says, “Success is how high you bounce after you hit rock bottom,” and so I would take a SuperBall® with me when I’d go to the gym and when I was in intense pain, I’d bounce my SuperBall® and remind myself to have that hard outer shell because no obstacle is too big to overcome.

And I always urge people in my motivational speeches to go out and buy a SuperBall® because we sometimes need that distraction to throw us back into the positive mode. You know, we start getting pulled down and to a negative cycle and to bounce that ball and remind yourself to be strong and bounce back, it really helps us think about that hard outer shell and how we can be strong.

Todd Hartley:
Gosh, that makes so much sense. Okay, let’s talk about your book, “When Turtles Fly: Secrets of Successful People Who Know How to Stick Their Necks Out.” Talk to me about The Turtle Effect™ – what does that mean?

Nikki Stone:
Okay, “When Turtles Fly” came from this philosophy that my mother taught me as a young girl called The Turtle Effect™ and she told me, in order to be successful we have to be like turtles – you have to be soft on the inside; you have to have a hard shell and you have to be willing to stick your neck out, and it’s something that I always used throughout my career like to find your soft inside you needed passion for what you did, in order to have a hard shell you have to be focused, committed and overcome adversities, and to stick your neck out, you have to believe in yourself, take a risk and find the team work to follow through.

And so, through the book I have found 40 contributors from all different fields, from a Tom Hilfiger to Steve Young to Shaun White, Prince Albert of Monaco, Nadia Comaneci…

Todd Hartley:
Yeah, and we also see Summer Sanders, got to love her.

Nikki Stone:
Yes, Summer Sanders was wonderful, and we found that each of these people used these elements of The Turtle Effect™ to find their success. So we talked to them all about how they could find the reasoning behind finding their success and their inspirational stories lead the way for readers to find their own activities to be able to come back to their success.

Todd Hartley:
Yeah, that is really great and your book, I understand you are donating 25% of the proceeds to the American Cancer Society. Why was that important to you?

Nikki Stone:
Well both my parents are cancer survivors – my mom breast cancer and my father prostate cancer, and in my mother’s case it was very aggressive cancer and I know she is here today because of the work that people like the American Cancer Society do and no matter who it is out there they know a sister a brother, mother, father, aunt, uncle, neighbor, friend, colleague that has cancer and, you know, I want to make sure there’s more survivors out there and want to do my part to be able to give back to a cause that’s helped me bring my parents back.

Todd Hartley:
Sounds like you come from a long family history of fighters.

Nikki Stone:
Yeah, it was funny because after using The Turtle Effect™ myself for so many years, I turn it the back on them and made sure that they were going to be soft on the inside, have the hard shell and be willing to stick their neck out as they went through the chemo and radiation and made sure that they were going to fight their whole way through this.

Todd Hartley:
Can you share with me how you are going to be working with the U.S. Olympic athletes up in Vancouver?

Nikki Stone:
I am going to be helping the athletes at processing and that’s where they get their Olympic uniforms, their accreditations and the United States Olympic Committee has actually asked me as an expert to come in and work with the athletes on dealing with pressure, on overcoming adversities, and making sure that they can perform their best with motivation going into the game and it’s an enormous honor.

Todd Hartley:
Well I am inspired by you. I am sure there are a lot of people that dealt with spinal injuries that are looking to you as an example, you know, of keeping that solid mind out there, sticking your neck out, not giving up and persevering and continuing to be a motivational force for others.

She is Nikki Stone. She is going to be up at the Olympics helping to motivate and inspire young athletes at the 2010 Vancouver Olympic Games. If you want to find out more I recommend you go to see her website, it’s http://whenturtlesfly.com, that’s http://whenturtlesfly.com, and her book is, “When Turtles Fly: The Secrets of Successful People Who Know How to Stick Their Necks Out.”

Nikki Stone, thank you so much for reminding each of us how important it is to stick our necks out just a little bit further.

Nikki Stone:
Thanks so much and I hope it goes beyond the athletes to be able to inspire corporate people, individuals, parents, what not to find whatever their gold medal may be.

Todd Hartley:
That’s so cool. Thank you so much for your time today, Nikki.

Nikki Stone:
You too, have a great day.

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HERWriter Guide

How wonderful that 25% of the proceeds from "When Turtles Fly" will go the American Cancer Society. This disease can strike anyone, as Nikki Stone's family history shows. I'm not familiar with Ms. Stone's Olympic record, but she's definitely a winner through her recognition of the need to provide support for cancer survivors.

February 22, 2010 - 6:00pm
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