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Story highlights

Winter Olympians discuss inspirations

Wojtek Wolski recovered from broken neck

Shiva Keshavan is India's only competitor in luge

(CNN) —  

It’s never easy reaching a Winter Olympics.

For the 2018 edition, some athletes defied all odds and competed without funding, while others spent months wondering if they’d ever compete again after suffering career-threatening injuries.

But as the Winter Games draws to a close, athletes are beginning to reflect on how they ended up competing on the world’s greatest stage.

CNN Sport spoke with two of them to find out what inspired them to compete at a Winter Olympics.

READ: The Winter Olympics’ greatest underdogs

’My mom and dad escaped communism’

Team Canada ice hockey player, Wojtek Wolski, says he owes his success and perseverance to his father, who brought the family from Poland to Canada as refugees when Wolski was one year old.

“My mom and my dad escaped communism,” Wolski told CNN Sport.

“They moved us to West Berlin and from there, we were sponsored by the Catholic Church and we moved to Toronto.

“We were supposed to end up in Winnipeg, but my dad decided we were going to get off the plane in Toronto and start a life.”

One of the key lessons Wolski picked up from his Dad was the importance of resilience.

“He’s overcome so many things. He’s taught me to not give up – to be persistent, to be determined. To keep going no matter what the costs.”

The hockey player has had many setbacks in his career – in 2016 he broke his neck during a match.

Wolski wasn’t sure if he’d ever walk again, let alone skate. And while his recovery has been extraordinary, during his comeback he also struggled with depression.

READ: From broken neck to PyeongChang in 16 months

He says his father has always been there to encourage him to never give up.

“I think anytime I have a tough time in my life he’s someone that I look to to help me through it.”

Fighting adversity and defying odds

India’s only competitor in luge, Shiva Keshavan, too, has faced many hardships during his Olympic journey.

The athlete was forced to practice on the mountainous roads of Northern India – not because he wanted to, but because he had no choice. India has no professional luge track – nor is it likely to build one any time soon.

Keshavan is the only athlete from India competing in luge.
Keshavan is the only athlete from India competing in luge.

He says Indian track and field athlete, P.T. Usha was one of the many people who has inspired him. She participated in three Olympic Games – in 1980, 1984 and 1988.

“(She) used to compete at the Olympic level and run barefoot because she didn’t have the resources to get the equipment others did,” he explains.

Like Usha, he too struggled to receive funding and structural support from India’s Olympic Association.

READ: The uphill battle of Indian athlete Shiva Keshavan in the luge

Mahatma Ghandi – leader of India’s independence movement and known for his peaceful activism – is also one of Keshavan’s idols.

“He taught me how to fight adversity,” he says. “India is a land of hardship and of people trying to make things happen despite the odds and so I get inspired by people around me on a daily basis.”

To find out more about the inspirations behind some of Pyeongchang’s Olympians – such US bobsleigh team Alexander Kopacz and Justin Kripps, Norwegian freestyle skier Oystein Braten, or Team Canada’s freestyle snowboarder Laurie Blouin – head to CNN Sport’s Facebook page.