The man who stood for ideals of Olympic Games
By Frederick Mordi
“Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.” Confucius
It is not often that a loser receives long standing ovation from 65,000 spectators at a major sporting event. Not even the winner got that kind of applause.
It happened in the semi-final of the 400m race at the 1992 Barcelona Olympic Games when Derek Redmond, a former British athlete, collapsed to the ground shortly after the race started, holding his leg in agony.
But rather than wait to be stretchered off as most athletes in his shoes would have done, Redmond picked himself up from the ground slowly, and started limping after the others that were, of course, far ahead of him.
Though pain was written on his face in bold capital letters, Redmond did not give in. He kept on running. Every step he took, multiplied his agony. The game officials and doctors tried to persuade him to stop, but he refused. He believed if he limped quickly enough, he might still catch up with them and qualify for the final. Having been plagued by a series of injuries in the past, he refused to yield again to defeat that stared him in the face.
He continued his slow painful race until a thickset man broke through the security cordon and ran towards him. The officials also tried to stop the man, but he waved them off. When he got to where Redmond was, he wrapped his arm around him. Using the man as a crutch, Redmond hobbled towards the finish line, before he sought medical attention. He wept like a baby. This singular action inspired millions of people around the world. But the injury effectively ended his career: his doctor told him he could never run again.
Recalling that moment years after, Redmond who held the British record for 400m sprint, with several gold medals to his credit, was quoted in an interview as saying that he never liked giving up at anything. That’s why, he explained, he was adamant on finishing that race if it was the last race he ever did.
“All these doctors and officials were coming onto the track, trying to get me to stop but I was having none of it,” he added. “Everything I had worked for was finished. I told myself I had to finish. I kept hopping round.
“My dream was over. In Seoul four years earlier, I didn’t even get to the start line because of an Achilles injury and I had ‘DNS’ – Did Not Start – next to my name. I didn’t want them to write ‘DNF’ – Did Not Finish – in Barcelona.”
It was only when he was about 100m to the finish line that he became aware of someone else on the track, who said to him, “Derek, it’s me, you don’t need to do this.”
But when Redmond—a contemporary of the famous sprinter Linford Christie—insisted on completing the race, the man made him stop trying to run and walk instead, to avoid further damage. All the while he kept telling Redmond, “You’re a champion, you’ve got nothing to prove.”
The memorable moment has been used by many global brands including Nike and Visa, in their adverts to symbolise courage and the spirit of the Olympic Games. Redmond, who was initially very angry when his doctor told him he would never represent his country again, decided to focus on other areas of life.
Interestingly, he has achieved even greater fame outside the track than he would have on it. For instance, he went on to represent Great Britain in basketball, which he later switched to. A multi-purpose sports hall is named after him in his former school. He is a highly sought after motivational speaker.
Perhaps, even more interesting is the fact that the man who bulldozed his way into the track to help Redmond, was none other than his father!
“I’m the proudest father alive,” he was later quoted as saying. “I’m prouder of him than I would have been if he had won the gold medal. It took a lot of guts for him to do what he did.”
In appreciation of his vivid portrayal of the universal theme of fatherhood, Redmond’s tenacious father was asked to carry the torch at the London Olympic Games in 2012. He received as much honour as his son.
Redmond’s story seems to literally prove the truth in a well-known saying: the downfall of a man is not the end of his life.
Tags: author of the senator's car, barcelona olympics 1992 sem final 400m race, british olympic sprinters 1992, confucius, derek redmond, did not finish, did not start, DNF, DNS, Fred Mordi, Frederick Mordi, inspirational sports story, jim redmond london olympic games torch, linford christie, london 2012 olympic games, never give in
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