When U.S. Flagbearer Cliff Meidl led Team USA into the Opening Ceremonies of the Sydney Olympic Games in the summer of 2000, hundreds of millions of viewers learned about Cliff's personal journey. They learned about his construction site accident and the 30,000 volts of electricity that coursed through his body. They learned about his determination to fight back from his devastating setback. They learned about the fire within that drove him to walk again and then to realize his goal of making the Olympic team — not once but twice!
OLYMPIAN HERO SPEAKER
When American kayaker Cliff Meidl led his United States Olympian teammates onto the field at
the Opening Ceremonies of the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games, nearly two billion viewers around the
world were watching this young man from Manhattan Beach, California. Many of these viewers
learned of Meidl’s courageous rehabilitation and recovery from a tragic construction accident that
occurred in 1986.
Meidl had jackhammered into three buried power lines that sent approximately 30,000 volts of
electricity shooting through him. Meidl suffered three cardiac arrest episodes in the aftermath and
was “gone” for more than two minutes before medics revived him. That powerful jolt was enough
to kill several men, but somehow Cliff Meidl clung to life. “I guess I just had more to do in my life”
Meidl endured a total of 15 surgical procedures in five years and spent more than six years on
crutches while he worked toward rebuilding his life. The accident disintegrated one-third of both
knee joints and severely burned his back and skull. In addition, the accident nearly forced the
amputation of his legs. However, Meidl was able to save his legs through an innovative surgical
procedure that removed portions of his calf muscles for attachment onto the remaining knee joints.
After Meidl’s knees had sufficiently healed, he used physical therapy to overcome his injuries.
At first, Meidl turned to canoeing and kayaking for the therapeutic value. However, he quickly
excelled in these sports and thrived on his ability to compete with others in an equal setting. As a
result, he threw himself into an aggressive weight lifting and conditioning regimen that enabled him
to compete at the highest level. After years of hard work and dedication to his new sport of
flatwater kayaking, Cliff began to make his dream of becoming an Olympian a reality.
In 1995, Meidl won a gold, silver and bronze medal in his kayaking events at the U.S. Olympic
Festival in Denver. As they say, the rest is history. Meidl made two U.S. Olympic teams, a feat that
only fifteen percent of all Olympians accomplish and, more importantly, he has inspired a nation in
the process. Today, the 44-year-old financial analyst is enjoying his latest challenge–inspiring
audiences. He is now sharing his inspirational story with diverse audiences all across the U.S.
Meidl has served as the national spokesperson for the Construction Safety Council and has recorded
several national public service announcements and videos featured on television & radio stations
across the United States. In addition, Meidl also served as national media spokesperson for the
Electrical Safety Foundation International.
Finally, Meidl is the proud recipient of a number of prestigious awards for courage. He received
the ARETE Award, the Philadelphia Sportswriters’ Courage in Sports Award and the “Patsy
Choco Award” from the Los Angeles Marathon. In 2003, Cliff was selected as an initial Olympian
honoree of the Olympian Heroes series that features 20 of the most inspirational U.S. Olympians.
Meidl is also involved with his community as a Board Member of the El Camino Community
College Foundation and also partners with various community foundations such as the Southern
California Special Olympics and Why Can’t We Make a Difference.org. Meidl received a Bachelor
of Science degree in Finance from Cal State University Long Beach and has an MBA Degree from
the University of Southern California. During the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, Meidl
represented the U.S. Olympic Team as Team Leader for Flatwater Canoe & Kayak.
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