Full transcript of Gabi Ury’s TEDx Talk: ‘What’s Wrong With Me? Absolutely Nothing’ at TEDxSanDiego conference.
Right click to download the MP3 audio:
Gabi Ury – World female planking champion
Has anyone here ever done a plank before? And when I say plank, I don’t mean where you get on the ground, lie down on random things, and take pictures for Instagram. I mean that awful exercise they probably made you do in gym class.
My name is Gabi Ury, I’m 16 years old and if anyone had told me a year ago that I’d be on the stage giving a speech about how I broke the female Guinness World Record for longest abdominal plank, I would have thought they were completely crazy. You see, because by most people’s standards, there’s quite a lot wrong with me, but I see it differently, and that makes all the difference.
Up until the day I was born, my parents were expecting a perfectly normal baby girl, then I popped out. You see, no one, not even the doctors, realized that I was one of the 1 in 40,000 babies born with VATER syndrome every year. For me individually, it affects my spine, spinal cord, legs, feet, and a number of my organs. That’s a lot of problems for a tiny baby. The doctors weren’t sure if I’d ever walk or even live, and, well, here I am.
In order fix all of those problems, I had to undergo about 15 major surgeries, casts on both my legs and my back for 11 years, physical therapy every single day for years, and literally hundreds and hundreds of doctor’s appointments. People always ask me how hard it was for me, but to be honest, I don’t remember most of it and, as weird as it may sound, I never knew anything different, so it was kind of normal.
For my parents, on the other hand, it was hell. As I got older I still had to do things every day to ensure I stayed healthy and go to a few doctor’s appointments every year, but my day-to-day life was pretty normal. I would go to school, play with my friends, go to PE. I didn’t let the fact that things were harder for me get in my way.
My philosophy ever since I was little was basically: complaining about my situation wasn’t going to help, so what was the point? I didn’t care that I was smaller, or couldn’t run as fast as any of my friends, and neither did anyone else. The way I saw it, the only thing wrong was when people thought I couldn’t do something.
A little over a year ago — well, OK let’s start at the beginning. Ever since I was little, I’ve been very competitive and wanted to break a Guinness World Record. Yes, I’m an ambitious little girl. I started out with easier records, granted I didn’t make any of them but I started with longest hopscotch course in my driveway, with my friend Leah, when I was about ten.
Another one, was most socks on one foot. I think I got to like 70 or 80 socks on my left foot. This was always in the back of my mind, kind of turning the wheels, and a little over a year ago, I was trying out for my school’s volleyball team. When everyone else had to run the mile I explained to my coach that I couldn’t as I was born without calf muscles, and let’s be honest, running really isn’t my thing. So she told me to get on the ground and do the plank for as long as I could. When everyone else came back, it had been 12 minutes. When I saw everyone else’s surprise that I had held it that long I instantly thought: Guinness World Record.
That day I went home and applied for the record. I saw that the current record was 40 minutes, one second. In November, I underwent surgery and spent a few weeks recovering. But please, I wasn’t going to let that stop me.
In January, I decided it was a good time to see how long I could actually plank for. The goal on the first day: 20 minutes, then 25, then 27, and so on. I decided that for my 16th birthday in April, I would try and break the record. As the day got closer, I got the idea to raise money for a cause along with the record. I chose Children’s Hospital in Denver where I had had most of my surgeries. I think without the doctors and nurses there, I probably wouldn’t have been able to do a plank, let alone break the world record.
I made a website, and with the initial stretch target of $5,000. Little did I know, that by the end of this all I would have raised more than ten times that amount. That’s insane to even think about.
Finally, the day of the event came, and I had my movie on my iPhone, and I was ready to go.
Then, something I hadn’t factored in, happened. Watching TV and Ellen YouTube videos was enough to keep me distracted when I was alone in my room with my puppy Mia, but it wasn’t cutting it with all my family and my friends and people all over the world watching via live Webcast. It had only been 30 minutes when I started to notice everything was hurting. My arms were killing me. My friends came over and tried to distract me. They told me funny stories, they sang songs, and basically did anything to get my mind off what was actually going on. My friend Leah’s inspirational quote of the day: “If you’re not cheating, you’re not trying.”
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