What kind of victory matters to you? – An Olympic Tale.
In 1992 Barcelona Olympics, Britain experienced both states of heartbreak and tugged-heartstrings within a few seconds of each other while watching the men’s semi-final for the 400-meter sprint. Every Briton watched – both in the stadium and through the glass of their televisions – holding their breath as the runners lined up to ready themselves for the gunshot. Their eyes were all captivated on lane 5 where Derek Redmond was about to sprint for his country.
The gunshot sounds and the sprinters blast from their starting crouches. With a free pass to the finals just over the finish line, they all pump their muscles until the various colours of their countries blur into streaks along the track. Derek Redmond flies with them, as strong and physically fit as he’s ever been. But then…
The world watches in horror as 250 meters in, Derek staggers to a stop, gripping the back of his leg and screaming before collapsing onto the track in tears. He later told reporters that he had heard a distinctive “pop” before searing pain had crippled his leg, and he honestly thought for a split second that he had been shot. But then his instincts kicked in and he knew he had torn a hamstring. For a few seconds, he sits on the track with assistants converging on him, the pain so blinding that he is unable to string together a coherent thought. One he could think straight again, he remembered where he was and the purpose of the four years of solid training he had just pushed through. He said to himself, “You’re in a race, you idiot, get up and run.” So, he did.
Tugging at heartstrings.
Despite the pain, despite the officials convincing him he should stop to prevent further injury, Derek fought on and hobbled around the track. He thought positively, telling himself he could still win, that if he ran fast enough he could be within a chance of not crossing the line last. Everyone else in the race had already finished, but that didn’t stop Derek from hopping forwards.
A man breaks free from the crowd and jogs towards Derek, shoving officials out the way. This was Derek’s father, Jim, who could not bear to watch his son put himself through this pain. Jim caught up to his son and said, “You don’t have to do this. You can stop now, you have nothing to prove.”
Derek only replied, “Yes I do. Get me back into lane 5, I want to finish.”
“Then we’ll do it together,” Jim soothed.
The perseverance took Derek across the finish line and even though last place means he won no medal, he received what the commentator on the day called as, “the cheer of the games.” Derek has since said the event that he didn’t want to be remembered for it, but to us, the aspiring athletes and admiring civilians, he was the most successful person on that track. He went to that race that day with a task to complete, and he made sure to finish it despite what happened to him.
We hope that if you face a problem as painful as Derek’s, whether literally or theoretically, we hope you too have the courage to battle through it to achieve what you set out to do. You might not get first place, but you can then say to people honestly that you did it. What kind of victory matters to you?