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“May joy and good fellowship reign, and in this manner, may the Olympic Torch pursue its way through ages, increasing friendly understanding among nations, for the good of humanity, always more enthusiastic, more courageous and more pure.” -Pierre de Coubertin, father of the modern Olympic Games
Dream Team had taken over the basketball court, Janet Evans and Matt Biondi were setting up shop in swimming, and Carl Lewis was proving that he could still run and jump. I was just a kid, but I understood that there was something special about "the Games", this grand competitive spectacle that had the power to capture the world's attention. Even at that young age I felt that the Olympics had a special aura about them, one that inspires, motivates, and instills feelings of hope and peace within spectators and participants alike.SALT LAKE CITY - When I was little I remember sitting in our new Utah home watching coverage of the 1992 Barcelona, Spain Summer Games. The original
While there are many stories and athletes to remember from the Barcelona Games, perhaps none represents the Olympic spirit as much as Great Britain's Derek Redmond.
His is a story that evokes feelings of deep respect for an athlete who put his Olympic dreams on the line only to have a hamstring injury bring him to his knees in the middle of the 400-meter semifinals. Redmond was expected to make the finals with ease, so when his face painfully contorted and he grabbed his right leg at the 175-meter mark, everyone knew that something wrong.
The world watched as Redmond knelt with tears on his face from a mixture of physical and emotional pain. He would later say all he could think was, "I'm out of the Olympics..." Out...but not finished. Derek told the medical personnel that he wasn't done. Having experienced a pulled hamstring myself, I don't know where he got the fortitude to rise back to his feet and begin a slow skipping rhythm towards the finish line. He would come in last, but he would finish. Injured or not, he would finish.
Tears continued to flow, but this time from the spectators as Redmond's father, Jim, leapt from the stands, dodged security, and planted himself firmly by his son's side. 65,000 people in attendance at the Estadi Olímpic de Montjuïc rose to their feet and gave Derek a standing ovation as he and his father completed a lap around the track. Right before the finish line, Jim let Derek go so he could finish his race on his own.
Courageous? Without a doubt. Honorable? Incredibly so. Although Derek crossed the finish line last, the world recognized him as a true champion, a hero of sport who showed what it meant to give your best, regardless of the outcome. His tremendous spirit and strength, despite injury, earned him more than a place in history; for those who saw and know his story, it earned Derek Redmond a place in our hearts.
While the official Olympic records indicate that Redmond "Did Not Finish (DNF)", his struggle has become a classic go-to story for perseverance, and rightly so. The International Olympic Committee even created a "Celebrate Humanity" video featuring Derek which proclaimed "Force is measured in kilograms. Speed is measured in seconds. Courage? You can't measure courage."
Derek was not the first athlete to show courage at the Games, nor will he be the last. But the core of his story demonstrates what the Games are all about: hope. Hope when things go wrong, hope when we follow our dreams and hope that there is far more strength inside our spirits than we ever thought possible.
It is this hope, and Derek Redmond's 1992 Barcelona-experience that first led me to believe that our world needs the Olympics more than we realize. The Games have become more than a once-every-two-years event; they are a source of optimism, of change and of a peace that we so desperately need in this chaotic world.