Cliff Meidl

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 jackhammered into a buried power line that sent approximately 30,000 volts of electricity shooting through him. Meidl suffered three cardiac arrest episodes in the aftermath and was “gone” 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 fifteen surgeries in fifteen months and spent more than three years on crutches while heworked toward re-building his life. The accident disintegrated one-third of both knee joints and severely burned his back and skull. In addition, the accident nearly forcedthe amputation of his legs. 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 so that enabled him to compete at the highest level. After years of hard work and dedication to his new sport of flatwater kayaking, Cliff began making rapid strides toward making his dream of becoming an Olympian into a reality.

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 34-year-old financial analyst is enjoying his latest challenge–inspiring audiences. He is now sharing his exciting and inspirational story with diverse audiences all across the U.S.


  • USA Flagbearer for the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games
  • Two-time member of the USA Olympic Team in Sprint Kayaking (1996 & 2000)
  • 2000 Arete Award winner for “Courage in Sports”
  • 2001 Philadelphia Sports Writers Association “Most Courageous Athlete” Award
  • 2001 “Patsy Choco Courage Award” from the City of Los Angeles Marathon Committee.
  • 2001-2002 National Spokesperson for Construction Safety Council
  • 2002-2003 National Spokesperson for Electrical Safety Foundation International
  • 2002 Torch Bearer for the Salt Lake City Olympic Torch Relay
  • 2003 Olympian Heroes Series Feature
  • 2003 Most Distinguished Community College Alumnus for California
  • 2003 Most Distinguished Alumnus for El Camino College