It’s not Michael Phelps blowing away the world with his talent. It’s not Mary Lou Retton winning gold. It’s not even the US hockey team in 1980.
No, the greatest Olympic moment in history is Derek Redmond finishing the race. *From ESPN:
Redmond arrived at the 1992 Olympic Summer Games in Barcelona determined to win a medal in the 400. The color of the medal was meaningless; he just wanted to win one. Just one.
He had been forced to withdraw from the 400 at the 1988 Games in Seoul, only 10 minutes before the race, because of an Achilles tendon injury. He then underwent five surgeries over the next year. This was the same runner who had shattered the British 400-meter record at age 19. So when the 1992 Games arrived, this was his time, his moment, his stage, to show the world how good he was and who he was.*
The 400 meter race starts, and Derek Redmond runs. He runs brilliantly. Until…
Halfway through the the race, the race he’s better at than anyone else in the world, the race he’s waited for and trained for all his life, the race that is the culmination of who he is athletically and what he can do, the race in front of 65000 screaming fans…
Halfway through that race he pulls a hamstring.
Disaster. He falls down.
Derek lies on the track, broken, humiliated and alone. Officials and journalists crowd around him, to document his defeat.
He gets up. He shakes off the crowd of journalists, and starts hopping towards the finish line. The race is over, the American won, but Derek Redmond is going to finish the race. He hops once. He hops again. And he continues to hop towards the finish line. In the crowd, Derek’s father sees that his son needs help, and he gets up to give it.
Meanwhile 65,000 screaming fans realize what is going on and start to cheer Redmond on his slow way to the finish line. Redmond’s father reaches the field and goes to his son, after shrugging off the constraints of security. He runs to his son and supports him, compensating for his injured leg. Derek Redmond and his father cross the finish line to delirious cheers.
THAT is what the Olympics are about.
See the video here Greatest Olympic performance ever.
I tear up just talking about this moment. I had to watch it again to post this, and I’m definitely crying like a baby.