No goal is reached without a struggle
The magic of sports is its ability to show us that we all want to help each other to reach our most ambitious goals. It helps us discover our true altruistic nature to inspire others to succeed. It makes us strive as a society that truly embraces the noblest Olympic spirit to support our fellow brothers and sisters even when they are not winning, but when they are struggling, because this is our altruistic nature.
“The Olympic Games! There is a magic power attached to these words”. Preceding the 1912 Stockholm Olympic Games, Count S. Hermelin had praised in The Fifth Olympiad the magical power of the Games. Reminiscent of the ancient Greece Games he mentioned the magnificence of the spectators in awe to the athletes, “You see the marble Stadium of Athens two thousand years ago with its seats packed by immense crowds.” Hermelin was right, they were, and they continue to be, immense.
The immense crowd has been felt many times in the Olympics when they stand to support the most needed ones. If we ask what is the first thing that comes to mind when you think of the Olympic Games, these are some of the answers: unity, competition, humanity, diversity, fellowship, the pursuit of excellence – among many others; these are all part of the magic contained in the good Olympic spirit.
In the 1984 Los Angeles Summer Olympic Games history brought us the last most painful 400 meters. It was the first time women were allowed to run this marathon. The Swiss marathoner Andersen-Scheiss, who in the previous year had won the California International Marathon in the first place on 2:33:25, agonizingly finished the Olympic race in the 37th place on 2:48:42. It’s worth quoting the Los Angeles Times about it, “the struggle stopped where Andersen wanted it to stop, at the finish line. In a triumph of her will, she finished the race. And in doing so, provided for some new meaning to human courage.” Even today after watching on YouTube those 400 meters it’s distressing and discomforting. Yet, the immense crowd acclaimed in ovation her struggle and courage to succeed. Video: http://bit.ly/LAander1984
In the 2000 Sydney Summer Olympic Games something unimaginable happened. Eric Moussambani from Equatorial Guinea set the slowest swimming record time ever. He swam the 100 meters freestyle in 1:52.72. By then the world record for this race had been set at 48:93 by the Russian swimmer Alexander Popov. When he was about to finish his race the people attending this event stood up in support applauding and cheering him on. It was almost like Moussambani would have not done it without their support. I still remember watching that event live on TV, and I was emotionally moved, for seeing how all of a sudden people became active supporters instead of being passive individuals observing a swimming race. Video: http://bit.ly/Moussamb
In the 2016 Brazil Paralympic Summer Olympic Games the goal was reached. The Paralympic swimmer Gideon Nasilowski from Namibia competed in the 50 meters heat, coming in last with 1:38.21. While the first place made it in 40.51, the remaining time of the race was truly an act of Olympic spirit. The immense crowd was truly magical in shouting and roaring for Nasilowski. In his Facebook profile where he is named as Gideon Nasilowski “The Great Swimmer” he says, “Wish I could apologise for the result or for not bringing you a medal I know you deserve the best from us but that exactly what I gave I jumped in and swam my heart out and man did the crowd respond or what?” For Nasilowski, finishing 11th place was his greatest achievement in life and there was the crowd to help him achieved his goal. In the end he says, “I took last position 11th place, 11th best swimmer in the World. I can live with that”. Video: http://bit.ly/GideonNas
Through the years these races have become examples of success. Even though their times could have been some of the worst ones seen on an event such as the Olympics, I’ve always thought of something more meaningful than their time, and that is the courage, the determination and the spirit each of them had. These moments clearly make us realize that in life we are aware when someone needs our support. The mere fact of cheering someone as we have always done with children when they are learning to walk could be considered more important than winning a race. So it’s not at all times about being higher, faster, stronger, but as Gideon “The Great Swimmer” said, “It’s not always just about medals it’s about the spirit you have to influence the World positively”.
Hermelin, Sven: V. Olympiaden – Olympiska spelen i Stockholm 1912 i bild och ord, Stockholm 1912, pp. 27-28
Gustkey, E. (1988, September 12). With the End in Sight: Andersen’s Staggering Finish in 1984 Women’s Marathon a Haunting Image. Retrieved November 29, 2016, from Los Angeles Times: articles.latimes.com/1988-09-12/sports/sp-1402_1_finish-line
Baron, S. (2016, September 13). CBC Sports Paralympics. Retrieved November 29, 2016, from CBC Sports: www.cbc.ca/sports/paralympics/gideo-nasilowski-standing-ovation-in-rio-1.3760986
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in Peace and Sport Watch are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of Peace and Sport.