How Olympic gold medallist Mary Wineberg is inspiring children around the world

Olympic gold medallist Mary Wineberg is sharing her inspirational children’s book with young fans all over the world through the Olympian & Paralympian Online Experiences available on Worldwide Olympic Partner Airbnb’s platform.



When Mary Wineberg retired from athletics, she knew exactly what she wanted to do next. The Olympic gold medallist – who topped the podium as part of the US women’s 4x400m relay team at the Olympic Games Beijing 2008 – wanted to use her experiences as an Olympian to inspire future generations.

First, she returned to teaching, working at an elementary school in Cincinnati, Ohio. Then, when she wanted her influence to reach a little further, she wrote a children’s book, titled I Didn’t Win, to help young readers learn valuable lessons that she learnt during her sporting career – about determination, self-belief and never giving up.

“As a teacher, I encountered so many children struggling with always wanting to win,” explains Wineberg. “Yes, I’m an Olympic gold medallist, which means I like to win, but there were times when I first started off in my career that I lost a lot of races. And when you lose, you don't feel the greatest. So, I decided to write a book so that other children can understand what that means as well. It talks about this little boy named Jackson, and I take everything that I learned from training for the Olympic Games and I put it into a storybook for children aged from kindergarten through third grade. I really put it in words so that they can understand, ‘I have to set a goal. I have to know that I can't ever give up and I just have to believe in myself’.”

Now, Wineberg is hoping to reach even greater audiences by sharing her book with kids all over the world through the IOC and Airbnb’s Olympian and Paralympian Experiences. Her ‘Storytime with an Olympian’ invites parents and their children to join her for a virtual storytelling session, with Wineberg reading I Didn’t Win while also sharing some of her experiences from her life as an elite athlete.

“There aren't that many Olympians who have their own children's book out there,” she admits. “I'm very proud of that and I'm excited to be able to share it with others so that they can share it with their children as well.”

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For Wineberg, her main goal is inspiring future generations through the fictional Jackson’s story, which is based heavily on her own experiences as an athlete growing up.

“I want them to say, after leaving this experience, ‘Wow, I want to be just like Jackson too.’ That's my goal,” she explains. “I want the children to walk away knowing that they have to set their dreams high and to never give up. And even if you fall down that one time, or if you don't complete that particular race, or you don't get the grade that you wanted in school, it's an opportunity for you to say, ‘I can't give up; I'm going to keep trying.’ And after reading the book, I hope they see that they can do anything they put their minds to.”

And, according to Wineberg, it’s not just children who can learn something from joining her Experience.

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“I think I can definitely give people pointers and just that excitement to say, ‘You know what? Wow, I may not want to go for a gold medal, but I might want to do something for my job or something else in my life. And hey, this Olympic gold medallist inspired me through her storytelling and through sharing her life story.”


With communities around the world staying at home to protect their own health and the health of others, Olympian & Paralympian Online Experiences developed with Airbnb provide a new way for users to enjoy unique activities – such as workouts and mentoring sessions led by Olympians and Paralympians virtually – and for athlete hosts to share their passion, connect with fans and earn income during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Explore all of the Online Experiences hosted by Olympians & Paralympians here. Or are you an Olympian or a Paralympian interested in hosting your own experience? Let us help you get started here!

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