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Tommy Keeler: 'Soul Surfer' is tear jerker

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Tommy Keeler

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tkeeler@nvdaily.com - Tommy Keeler

I'm not ashamed to admit it -- I had tears in my eyes.

As I sat and watched the new movie "Soul Surfer" I couldn't help but be overcome with emotions.

"Soul Surfer" is the true story of surfer Bethany Hamilton's life.

So often I hear children or high school athletes talk about looking up to pro athletes, such as LeBron James, Derek Jeter, Kobe Bryant or Peyton Manning. I'm not a big fan of anyone idolizing pro athletes, who you don't really know. However, if there is an athlete out there to idolize, Hamilton would be the perfect one.

I only went to watch "Soul Surfer" because I'm a Carrie Underwood fan, and it was her big screen acting debut. I had heard of Hamilton. I knew she was a surfer and overcame something, but didn't remember the details of her story.

In 2003, Hamilton, at the age of 13, lost her left arm after being attacked by a shark in Hawaii. Hamilton was considered to be a future surfing star, and was one of the best for her age in the world.

I remember hearing about it on the news after it happened, but as often happens the news becomes old by the next week, and you tend to forget about it. The name and the story then fades somewhere to the back of your mind.

At least, until you see it play out on the big screen. Even at the beginning of the movie I couldn't remember what happened to her, until the shark attack occurred.

Hamilton is played perfectly in the movie by AnnaSophia Robb. The cast is filled with top stars, including Dennis Quaid and Helen Hunt, who play Hamilton's parents.

The movie moved me like I hadn't been in a long time. I'm not typically an emotional person, and I don't think I've had tears in my eyes during a movie since watching "Bambi" as a child. However, it was hard not to be touched by Hamilton's courage and determination.

What amazed me the most about Hamilton's story was how she handled it. Losing your arm to a shark would be traumatic for anyone, but for a 13-year-old one would think it would be extremely difficult to handle.

I couldn't help but think how I would handle something like that, and I know it wouldn't be as well as Hamilton did.

She was in the hospital for a week. Hamilton lost nearly half of her blood, but it could have been worse. Hamilton stayed incredibly calm immediately after the attack, which kept her from losing even more blood.

Hamilton didn't let herself get too down after the attack. She didn't sit around feeling sorry for herself like so many of us, including me, would have.

Less than three weeks after the attack, Hamilton did an interview for TV. The reporter asked Hamilton, "You think you're gonna surf again?" Hamilton broke into a smile and said, "I think? I know I'm gonna surf again." Just a few days later, she did.

She fell on her first two attempts, but on the third one she rode the wave and proved to herself she could still surf.

Hamilton wasn't afraid to get back in the water, like I think most would be. Surfing was her life, it's what she had done since she was very little.

Of course, it's one thing to be able to surf, but another to be able to do it professionally.
Hamilton's best friend Alana Blanchard was also a surfer. Alana, along with her father and brother, were with Hamilton when the shark attack occurred. Hamilton and Blanchard always had a dream to both surf professionally together.

Today, Hamilton is 21 and she and Blanchard are professional surfers. It's a true story that one would think could only happen in Hollywood.

Hamilton has fans all over the world. She's helped make the sport more popular, but most importantly she's an inspiration. She's a true role model. A perfect example of what you can do if you just keep believing in yourself and your dreams. She never gave up and worked hard to achieve what she wanted.

She's still young, and Hamilton will only continue to get better and better at surfing.
Hamilton has done well at the pro level. No matter how she does for the rest of her career, it's safe to say Hamilton has already shown she's a winner.

She's a true champion. There are so many athletes today who aren't good role models, and it's good to see one who truly is.

Hamilton's story is one that is inspiring, makes you smile and, yes, sometimes even cry.

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