Valleys and Mountaintops:

A Conversation With Brandon Slay

by Charles White





Brandon Slay has done what few athletes have accomplished: win an Olympic gold medal. For most athletes, winning an Olympic gold medal might be the ultimate achievement and signal an end to their journey. However, for Brandon Slay, his journey still continues as he remains on a quest for "Greater Gold".

Born in Amarillo Texas, Slay was confronted early with family difficulties. When he was three years old, Brandon's parents divorced and he went to live with his mother. Two years later, Brandon was sent to live with his father: a decision for which Brandon praises his mother. "I cried for my father daily. When I was nearly five years old, Mom asked me if I wanted to live with Dad. I said yes. This was one of the most difficult decisions of my Mom's life and I praise her for her love and maturity in making it."

His dad didn't have a home of his own, so Brandon and his father moved in with his grandmother. Soon afterwards, Brandon's grandmother enrolled him in a Christian school and began taking him to a local Baptist church where she taught Sunday School. It was through his Grandmother's love and dedication towards God and others that Brandon learned the greatest lesson in his life. "My Grandmother taught me to put God first and others second and myself third."

When Brandon was six, his father encouraged him to take up the sport of wrestling. His dad wrestled in high school and college and hoped that his son would also like the sport. Eventually, Brandon did fall in love with wrestling and it became a very important part of his life. By the age of eleven, his coaches lit a fire inside of him that would lead to Olympic gold. The ensuing years saw a wresting career filled with victory despite the many ups and downs that filled his family life.

In 1993, Brandon's life was once again turned upside down as he decided to leave his Texas home for the big city of Philadelphia and the University of Pennsylvania. Here Slay spent the next five years working hard to obtain a degree and perfect his wrestling skills. His hard work and dedication led to a dual reward: a dual degree in Finance and Entrepreneurial Management from the best business school in the country and Olympic gold.

Even though it would be easy for Brandon Slay to measure success in terms of victories both on the mat and in the classroom, nothing could be farther from the truth. " To be a success is not about gold medals, blue ribbons or first place trophies or making an A+ in every single thing that you do…as long as you give your best, full and complete effort, that's what makes you a winner. Life is not about the solitary moment of glory. It's about the journey each one of us takes, the valleys we trudge through and the mountaintops we scale."

What other advice does Brandon have to offer? "Don't use the fact that you're not from an ideal family as an excuse to fail. I'm not from an ideal family, but I had plenty of people around me. Do your best and let God take care of the rest."

Like Brandon, we should all strive for "Greater Gold." This isn't found in the glitter of victories, but simply in the attempt. "Greater Gold" is never being afraid to try and giving it your all while always lifting your eyes heavenward and acknowledging where true victory lies and living your life accordingly.

To learn more about Brandon Slay, check out his personal website or visit his wonderful new organization:

  Greater Gold