As impressive as the Beijing Olympic Opening Ceremonies were on Friday and the amazing performances that I got a chance to catch over the weekend, for me the defining Olympic moment is still the 1992 400-meter race when Derek Redmond pulled a hamstring and choose to hobble the rest of the race, the last 100-meters with the assistance of his father. To witness the pain and anguish and determination to finish… I know that a credit card company is cashing in on the image, and maybe I’m overly sentimental about a “game,” but in that moment I identified with the power to rise above what others would call a lost cause. Equally the stadium rose to cheer on this broken athlete as he crossed the finish line. And what was writ large with this Olympic example I saw last year during an insignificant middle school race.
Derek Redmond – 1992 Olympic moment
Last April, while taking photos at a boys’ track meet for the school yearbook I saw how the gathered crowd reacted to the determination of a last place sixth grader who was completely out of his league running against much taller 7th and 8th graders in a two-lap 880 race. Long after all of the other runners had crossed the finish line, this sixth grader rounded the last turn before the long straight-away in front of the stands to the finish and he began to sprint. The crowd rose to their feet and the harder he ran the louder they cheered and the louder they cheered the harder he ran. By the time he reach the finish the noise was deafening and he had given everything he had. He wasn’t on my school’s team but I shot off pictures like he was an Olympic champion. It was the most perfect unmanufactured example of the human spirit I’d seen in years. In fact, it was probably 1992, the 400-meter race in Barcelona when I last saw the same unadulterated power of a crowd on its feet, screaming for the a last place runner. Funny how, when the greatness of the human spirit is reveal an unimportant middle school track meet can carry the same impact and meaning as the Olympics. jbb