Welcome! Since the Olympics in 1992, I have been on a great journey that has taken me all around the world, on tours, put me in front of cameras and in films,has given me a chance to write and make music, and has brought me back to my Self. After all that has occurred it still feels as though I have just begun. I thank you for joining me and I hope you enjoy some of the art, music and writing that you find in this site. Together through Love and personal responsibility, we can and will heal this world. :-)
Grace Breaks the Chains that Bind
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Grace: Breaking the Patterns that Bind
by Elizabeth Anna aka Betty Okino
Edited by Jacob Daniel
In the wake of Gabrielle Douglas' inspired Olympic gymnastics All-Around Victory, the prevalent conversation saturating the twittersphere was one revolving around the state of her hair. Thankfully, by the Grace of God, Gabby's purity and deep faith shielded her from a great deal of the ugliness, that was inherent within that conversation and that is often churned up by an event, such as this, that challenges the status quo. When Barrack Obama was elected into office as the first "black" president of the United States, a whole lot of ugly started working its way to the surface. This is understandable, as since the establishment of our nation by our forefathers, the elected leader of the free world was and always has been a caucasian man, not a woman, not a being of Asian decent, and certainly not a being of Latin or African descent. Prior to that day, when Barrack Obama was sworn in to office, if one were to take a group of ten people from diverse backgrounds, say the words "President of the United States," and then ask them to choose an image reflecting the first thing that comes to mind, from a group of photos in front of them, the majority, myself included would most likely pick the image of a caucasian man, clean cut and perhaps in his fifties or so. This was the habitual pattern, unconsciously formed, a program running in the back of our minds on auto pilot, until something happened to stop it. In that moment, when the President of the United States was announced, and I saw a man on the television screen that looked completely different from any image of president I had ever seen, or imagined before, I actually felt my mind begin to rewire, reprogram, and open to a new idea. I know that I wasn't the only one to have this experience. For some people the transition from old habit, to new idea, isn't as jarring, depending largely on what their conditioning was as a child, and yet for others, this transition can be totally violating to their system, churning up hate-filled emotions, and misguided thoughts.
Expand beyond what you think is possible. Stride!
by Elizabeth Anna aka Betty Okino
Edited by Jacob Daniel
There is no such thing as failure, the only failure that can exist, is the failure to recognize success.
The Celebration of the Precious Human Spirit not Precious Metals
by Elizabeth Anna aka Betty Okino
As the world watches the drama of the 2012 London Olympics unfold, I feel the heartache of those who fall short of their expectations, I feel the elation of those who exceed their expectations, and I feel the relief of those who meet the expectations of their countries and the media machines that depend on them for their survival. In this world which we live, being remembered largely depends on how greatly we exceed what is expected of us or how we fail to live up to what is expected. The process has become completely medal oriented, when the celebration of the Olympics was always intended to be about the pure exhibition of the human Spirit that it takes to even be demonstrating one's skill at this high level.
We have the power to govern our thoughts and emotions.
Choosing to govern our thoughts and emotions is taking the highest responsibility possible.
A Broken Knee, A Broken Back & An Olympic Dream Realized
by Elizabeth Anna aka Betty Okino
I recently had the privilege of tuning into a sermon delivered by the pastor Joel Osteen. In his sermon he quoted Galatians 6:9 which states, "Let us not get weary in doing well, for in due season we will reap, if we faint not." In other words, before the victory, we always face our biggest challenges, wherein we are provided the "weariness test." Our resilience is tested and we are given the opportunity to stand in faith, in the knowledge that so long as we do not give in, we shall prevail. No great victory has or will ever be won without overcoming perceived obstacles. It is at the point when we are closest to the victory, when we have been battling for months or years, holding in faith, for what seems like eons, that we begin to feel weary, like maybe we can't go any further, like we can't take another step. It is at this point that our greatest opportunities come. On the other side of those opportunities lies our greatest victories, if we but keep pressing on, keep believing and keep the faith.
Six months before my dream of being an Olympian came to fruition, I tore a major tendon in my knee, which required surgery to re-attach the tendon back to the bone. I thought, "At least it happened now and not right before the Olympics, I have time to get back into optimum performance shape." When difficult situations such as this arise, we are never left without assistance, without what I like to think of as angels, overshadowing those around us in moments of great need, filling those closest to us with the faith and courage required to assist us toward victory, and in so doing lifting themselves as well. Karolyi team trainer Leslie Spencer was that person, she was like an angel for me. From the moment I came out of surgery, she along with my grandmother, was by my side. My parents and the rest of my family lived in Elmhurst, Illinois and couldn't be there. I arrived home on crutches with my leg bandaged and throbbing from the trauma of surgery, and as I lay on the couch with my leg elevated, still somewhat drowsy, Leslie said to me, "We'll your tendon is stronger now than before with the screw in it. You can begin rehab immediately. The only thing that can stop you from getting back into competitive form within weeks... is you." In my Heart I knew this to be true; however, my head was trying to tell me, "There is no way you can start putting weight on it now, it's throbbing, and your leg is literally the same size as your arm," due to post surgery atrophy. The battle had begun, Heart over mind. In that first week, the pain was excruciating, as my leg worked its way back to health. Going to the bathroom and taking showers were events that produced many tears, as my grandmother assisted me, sliding a bed pan under me to pee in, so that I didn't have to feel the pain of the blood rushing down my leg every time I stood up to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night. Every day Leslie and I worked, and her absolute certainty and unwavering faith in my ability to bounce back, helped to fortify my own faith. As Bela shunned me, and my parents and grandma kept telling me to quit, unable to believe in my ability to come back, I reached toward faith. Every day I grew stronger, and within two months time I was back, standing on the podium in Paris, France, receiving the silver medal at the 1992 World's Gymnastics Championships.
As I reflect on that experience, I am reminded of the small victories that occur on the path to the big victories, and the importance of taking the time to celebrate them, for it is in those tiny celebrations that we allow ourselves to experience the sweetness of the journey. That is something I realize now, yet didn't know then.
Back in the gym, our training had intensified with the Olympics only three months away. The mounting pressure of country, coaches and self was palpable, as routine after routine we worked to perfect every element. As my training intensified, it seemed so did the pains in my body. I could feel the pressure of my family projecting towards the day when, "This would all be over," and our family would be reunited again. My grandmother had moved to Houston to live with me two years prior, as I was too young to live alone and living with a boarding family as I did in my first years at Karolyi's was no longer favorable, given my training and travel schedule. Grandma had voiced many times that she could hardly wait to be back in Elmhurst, Illinois with the rest of the family. At the time, I couldn't help but feel the weight of her emotions, and the emotion of my family as they seemed to be struggling without my grandmother there to help them. At the time, I felt guilty that my dream could be causing such suffering and unhappiness for my family, and shouldering much of the blame for the state of their emotions felt like an elephant standing on my shoulders, yet in my Heart burned the promise of a dream placed there by God, so long ago. I knew that this was my time of testing, at the end of a long fought battle, just before the glory of victory, and so I pressed on.
Two months before the Olympics, we were training on the uneven bars, nearing the end of morning workout. My back had been bothering me for several weeks, yet I was powering through the pain. I went through my bar routine as usual, and as I landed my dismount, as my feet hit the mat, I felt a jarring pain shoot down the back of my legs as they gave out from beneath me. My legs had gone numb. As I knelt there on the mat, terrified, I didn't move for a moment. Bella began yelling at me to move out of the way so that my teammates could continue with their routines. I fought tears from welling up in my eyes as I slowly rose to my feet and moved toward the chalk tray. Kim looked at me and asked under her breath if I was Ok. I said I didn't know. As I gathered myself, a throbbing pain began surrounding my lower back and I realized that I was going to have to say something to Bella, because I could barely move. He was already angry, and as he yelled at me to get out of his sight, I began moving slowly towards the exit of the gym. Leslie was in the training room above the gym watching the whole occurrence, and immediately came to help me up the stairs and into the training room. We immediately went to have x-rays taken, and as I lay there in the examining room, awaiting the results, the power of conviction in my Heart had already superseded any thought in my mind that would possibly deter me from my dream. The results came back, and I had broken my back, I had fractured my L3 and L4 vertebrae. The fracture was clean. My first question was, "When can I resume training? Because I have no time to lose with this." I was told there was a one percent chance of paralysis, yet if I could handle the pain, then I could train. From the surgeon's office I called my mom who was in Chicago and informed her of the situation. Again, she urged me to quit and said that I had done enough, it just wasn't for me and that I should come home, and that there was no point in possibly injuring myself further. I understood that she did not wish to see her child injured any further, yet I was fired up with the feeling that no one understood my dream but me. I told my mom I would return home, but not until I had won an Olympic medal.
I was Leslie who kept believing in me, when no one else did. She reminded me that if I could dream it, I could do it, and she urged me to keep reaching for the stars; so I remained in faith, calling to God to give me the strength to get through this day. I prayed that same prayer every day, and at the end of each day, I realized my prayer had been answered. The US Championships and the Olympic Trials had come and gone without my participation, and yet I knew, like I knew, like I knew, that I would be on that Olympic team. Now I have heard it said, that the Grace of God, will move into the Hearts and minds of others in order to work in our favor, if we but stay in faith. I saw the truth of this manifest in my experience, as the USA Gymnastics Federation moved to hold a second trial, closed to the public, yet watched closely by the judges, coaches and members of the Gymnastics Federation. This trial would give me the opportunity to prove my readiness and allow the heads of team USA to hand select the best team of six to represent the US in Barcelona. My international ranking as one of the top three gymnasts in the world, my physical readiness at the second trial and the willingness of my coaches, Bela and Marta, to stand up on my behalf, by the Grace of God, gave me the opportunity to be a part of the Olympic team.
Kerri Strug, Kim Zmeskal and myself awaited the results in our hotel room. The seven Olympians would be leaving the following morning and heading to Tampa first, and then to France for pre-Oylmpic training, and as we sat there, it felt like lifetimes passing in the course of an hour. I did my best not to pace, as both Kerri and Kim reassured me that there was no doubt that I was going to the Olympics. Their spots on the team were already assured. We turned on the television for some entertainment, and as we flipped through the channels, we stopped suddenly when we heard the newscaster say, "We have the 1992 Olympic women's gymnastics team for you after the break." My heart literally leapt into my throat, as I gulped down some water in an effort to push it back down into my chest. I thought, "My goodness, am I really going to discover my fate from the news?" As I sat there on the bed, holding Kim's hand, they started flashing the names on the screen, and there it was, my name, listed under the title "Olympian." A wave of relief and calm enthusiasm washed over me as I beamed. Not a moment went by before we heard a knock at the door; it was Marta, she had come to tell me that I was going to the Olympics! I tried my best not to let on that I already knew. After Marta left, I called my mom and let her know the news, that she and my family would be traveling to Barcelona. She said, "Congratulations, I had a feeling you would be going." The first part of the dream had been realized. The pain in my back persisted throughout the Olympics, yet each time I stepped onto the podium to do my routines I felt nothing but freedom, and in that freedom I went on to win an Olympic Medal with team USA. Victory!
I had not allowed myself to "get weary in doing well," I had "fainted not" and indeed the "due season" came in which I might "reap" the victory. I had experienced the lesson of perseverance when the road was rocky. I had experienced the power of faith when weariness had set in, and ever since, I have been able to apply these lessons throughout my life's journey. I know in my Heart, that certain victory awaits on the other side of testing. I know that triumph stands ready to greet me on the other side of challenge, and I am positively filled with hope and the power to strive, to reach my highest potential, always. Never give up. Keep the faith. Hold the vision, and victory is certain.
Never, ever, ever give up. Keep in faith. Follow your dreams. Trust your Heart.
Betty Okino Photo Gallery
From walking the beam to walking the red carpet, here are a few photos that I have had the pleasure to be a part of.