I just spotted the little excerpt below, and it made me think of the time I was fortunate to watch the Paralympics in London.
“In gym class today we had to run a mile.My best friend finished in 8 minutes. A kid with autism was still running after 12. She ran along with him, holding his hand until he was finished because he was the last one running, not caring that people were staring and laughing.”
I am a big fan of the Olympics, as it is one of those pinnacles of human determination. So, when a friend offered my wife and I free tickets to the Paralympics, we jumped at the opportunity. Everyone was abuzz with Olympic fever and the atmosphere throughout London was amazing.
The tickets were to the track and field stadium and throughout the day we watched people overcome what would seem insurmountable odds to perform great athletic feats.
However, without a doubt the most amazing thing we watched that night was the 3000m race. The overwhelming favorite was a Kenyan runner with mild CP, who held all the race records going back for years. He made the early running and split off from the front with an Irish guy, leaving the rest of the pack in their wake.
Suddenly the Irish guy made a break for it and the Kenyan had no response. The Irish guy was running at well below record pace and began to lap other runners. Unable to match his speed, the record holder slipped further and further behind. It was an overwhelming victory.
Now, as a spectator these two runners appeared completely unencumbered by their ‘conditions’. They were great runners and on any given day probably compete at a local running club and most likely win against ‘able bodied’ individuals.
The amazing person in this race was not the winner, not by a long shot. The amazing person in this race was a guy from Argentina, I believe, who not only had a more severe form of CP, but who was also blind and required a guide to run along side him.
I don’t recall exactly how many times he was lapped by the Irish gazelle, but by the end of the race it must have been at least 3 or 4 times. Undeterred he kept going and the crowd rose to urge him on. 80’000 people created a mexican wave that followed him around the stadium, urging him along. The cheer for him when he finished was many times louder than the victor and the tears of joy in his eyes moved everyone that was present that night.
In a world where we are often judged on wealth, social standing, and the make of our car, it is wonderful to share a moment, where none of this matters and the human spirit is celebrated with genuine passion.