While watching the Olympics the other night, I came across an incredible sight. It was not a gold medal, or a world record broken, but a show of sheer determination and guts.
The event was swimming and started with only three men on the blocks. For one reason or another, two of them false started, so they were disqualified. That left only one to compete. That would have been difficult enough, not having anyone to race against, even though the time on the clock is what’s important.
I watched the man dive off the blocks and knew right away that something was wrong. Now I’m not an expert swimmer but I do know a good dive from a poor one, and this was not exactly medal quality. When he resurfaced, it was evident that the man was not out for gold — his arms were flailing in an attempt at freestyle. The crowd started to titter. Clearly this man was not a medal contender.
I listened to the crowd begin to laugh at this poor man that was clearly having a hard time. Finally he made his turn to start back. It was pitiful. He made a few desperate strokes and you could tell he was exhausted.
But in those few awkward strokes, the crowd had changed.
No longer were they laughing, but beginning to cheer. Some even began to stand and yell things like, “Come on, you can do it!” and, “Go for it!” He did.
A clear minute past the average swimmer, this young man finally finished his race. The crowd went wild. You would have thought that he had won the gold, and he should have. Even though he recorded one of the slowest times in Olympic history, this man gave more heart than any of the other competitors.
Just a short year ago, he had never even swam, let alone raced. His country had been asked to Sydney as a courtesy.
In a competion where athletes remove their silver medals feeling they have somehow been cheated out of gold, or when they act so arrogantly in front of their rivals, it is nice to watch an underdog.
A man that gave his all — knowing that he had no chance, but competed because of the spirit of the games