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 jack-hammered 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 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 he recalls.
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
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 flat water kayaking, Cliff began to make his dream of becoming an Olympian a
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 41-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 country. 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.
2003, Cliff was selected as an initial Olympian honoree of the Olympian Heroes
series that features 20 of the most inspirational Olympians. Meidl is also
involved with his community as a Board Member at El Camino Community College
Foundation and the USA Canoe & Kayak Team as Sprint Athlete Director
& Treasurer. Meidl has an MBA Degree from the University of Southern
California. Cliff represented the 2008 Olympic Team as Team Leader for the
Sprint Canoe and Kayak Team.
Watch Cliff Meidl on YouTube