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Hometown Heroes… by Senator Kay Bailey Hutchinson

“The most important thing [in the Olympic Games] is not to win but to take part, just as the most important thing in life is not the triumph but the struggle. The essential thing is not to have conquered but to have fought well.” – The Olympic Creed

Number Six

We’ve all been inspired by Texas’ athletic stars, hometown heroes to many of us. But there is one star who seems to shine brighter with each summer victory. Lance Armstrong has done it again. He’s accomplished what no other cyclist has done before, winning his sixth straight Tour de France.

The Austin native held up six fingers as he raced to the finish line in Paris, pedaling his way out of Montereau and into history as one of the greatest athletes ever.

Cyclists from all over the world compete along 2,050 miles of road ranging from flat wheat fields to the steep Alps, making the Tour de France known not only for its beautiful terrain, but also as one of the most grueling sporting events of the modern era. Lance Armstrong has been an inspiration through his cycling accomplishments. Yet the headlines and glory fall a distant second behind his victory over cancer.

In October of 1996, while seemingly at the top of his game, the two-time Olympian was stricken with pain and forced off his bike. Armstrong was given less than a 50-50 chance to live after testicular cancer spread to his lungs and brain. As if scripted by Hollywood, the promising athlete fought and persevered to defeat the disease – and then employed that same tenacity to get back on the bike and back on top.

Today, our Texas hometown hero uses his triumphs to serve as a symbol of hope, inspiration and survivorship. He established the non-profit Lance Armstrong Foundation (LAF), which has become one of the nation’s preeminent cancer research organizations. This year, the LAF sold yellow bracelets with the words “Live Strong” with a goal of raising $5 million for cancer patients and their families. So far, LAF has sold seven million bracelets, bringing a total of $7 million to the cause already and more on back order.

A Look at Athens

The competitive side of Texas will continue to shine this summer as the country and the world heads to Athens, Greece for the 2004 Summer Olympic Games.

Every four years, the world comes together as one in celebration of the globe’s most prestigious athletic event. All too often our nations are unified only through tragedy, but, for the past 108 years, the Olympic Games have brought us together for friendly competition.
In the first modern Olympic Games, approximately 300 athletes from 13 countries competed in only nine sports. This month, nearly 10,500 athletes from 202 countries will partake in 37 different events.

So who will be next in joining Lance Armstrong and Michael Johnson in Texas Olympic history? Texas is the home state of 29 athletes on the 2004 U.S. Olympic Team. We are proud to field more athletes than any other state, except California. Fellow Texans will be cheering on their hometown heroes, including returning Olympians Mia Hamm, Sheryl Swoopes, Laura Wilkinson, Amy Acuff, Glenn Fuller, Connie Schiller Smotek, and Stacy Sykora. Texans are accustomed to being among the biggest and the best, but this competition is world class. Each one of these Lone Stars will be doing their utmost, competing for the gold and fighting to be among the great Texas Olympians.

I congratulate our Texas hometown heroes, Lance Armstrong and our Olympic athletes, in all they have achieved and have yet to accomplish. They make us proud.

To learn more on the Lance Armstrong Foundation visit www.laf.org and www.livestrong.com, to order a Live Strong bracelet. Keep up to date on the US Olympic team and Olympic events at www.usolympicteam.com and www.athens2004.com.