Sunday, February 2, 2014

The Olympic Spirit, Father and Son

Derek Redman and his dad,, fair use claime

Greetings All:

I started working on the follow-up to "The Medal Stand" goal-setting/prioritization post I did about a week ago.  I will get that up sooner than later.  However, I am doing another round of it this weekend to get a bit more data.  Stay tuned, it's coming.  After all, that post is on this weekend's medal stand. :)

In the meantime, here's a blog post on the Olympic Spirit.  In a week, after this weekend, the Super Bowl will be over.  Somali pirates will be wearing either Seattle/Denver "2014 Super Bowl Champion" t-shirts and hats (whomever lost and those are then donated to charity and promptly sent to the third world).  Then we'll turn our attention to Sochi for the Winter Olympics.  First and foremost, here's to an incident free games.  Of lesser significance but much more fun will be the games themselves.  We will see displays of grace, athleticism, teamwork, joy, and yes, despair.  For those of us who grew up with Jim McCay and ABC's "Wide World of Sports," we recall the opening credits with the famous line, "...and the agony of defeat!'  It featured a,...well, check it out for yourself:

We like winners.  I like winners.  I like it when Iowa wins in basketball and even more in football.  I believe it was John F. Kennedy who said, "Success has a thousand fathers but defeat is an orphan."

Yup, it was.

So here's an Olympic story that shines a different light on victory, defeat and a father's love.  Here's the story.  Enter Derek Redmond.

Redmond entered the 1992 Barcelona Olympics the favorite for the 400 meters.  Track and Field is to the summer games what figure skating is to the winter games.  I can only poorly fathom how many grueling hours he spent training, the monk-like denial of food and other comforts/entertainments in a laser-focus on one goal- the gold medal.

The race began and all went well.  Then, disaster struck.  About 250 meters from the finish and Olympic immortality, he ripped his hamstring and crumpled to the ground, writhing in agony.  I pulled a hamstring playing softball ten years ago.  It hurt.  Redmond destroyed his.  The pain had to be horrific.  And there was not just the physical pain, there was the emotional.  He HAD to know that when the hamstring ripped his Olympic dreams also were ripped apart.

So there he lay, on the track, in the pain of both the hamstring and defeat.  He was the orphan of defeat.

In that moment, he made a decision, to finish the race.  Step after step, he moved forward.  The race long over, he did not care.  He was going to finish.  So on he jogged, then walked, then hobbled.

Then, a disturbance in the stands.  An older man pushed his way through the crowd, onto the track.  No security guard without a taser was going to stop him.  And even if a guard had one, they would have holstered it and let him pass.  He had no official pass, he had something better- Derek's DNA.

Enter Jim Redmond, Derek's Dad.  At first, he did what any dad would do, comfort his son.  He told him, "You don't have to do this."  Derek replied, "Yes, I do."  At that point, the Rubicon was crossed and Derek was going to finish the race, with his dad Jim helping.

The suits from the Olympics ran up to them, trying to get them to stop.  Jim told them to (expletive-deleted) off.  Good for him.  His son was going to finish this run, his last run, with him leaning on his Dad.

As the final few feet of the race approached, Jim lifted his son, ever so gently, from his shoulder, so that his son could end the race on his own.  Derek did.  The crowd exploded in applause, as well they should.  In his case, defeat was not an orphan.  Then again, I'd argue (strongly) that this was a victory in its own unique and important way.

Epilogue- The dad, Jim Redmond got to carry the Olympic Flame during the relay in the UK that winded its way to London.  I cannot think of a better candidate to do so except for when Muhammad Ali lit the Olympic Torch in Atlanta in 1996.  Here's a photo and the whole story is below.

British Olympic Association CEO Andy Hunt, right, hands over the Olympic Torch to Jim Redmond who will carry the flame during the torch relay, which will begin in May. Source: AP, Source of caption and photo listed below, fair use claimed.
As I was working on this post and looking for photos, I hit the jackpot with a remarkable video of Derek and his Dad finishing the race.  I tried to upload the video and failed so please just check out the link and watch the video.  It's amazing.  It is inspiring.  It remains us, well, at least me, what is the purest form of competition.  That is, of course, with ourselves.

And for good measure, here's one that follows the commentators:

Good luck to all those competing in Sochi, may the only drama be from the competition.  Congrats to Team U.S.A. on getting to the games and wishing you many trips to the medal stand.  May Derek Redmond be an inspiration, and his dad.

Be well my friends,

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