In 14 starts, the United States of America had never lost. Perhaps it was that great legacy, that gave 4 upstarts and their foolish team coach, the audacity to believe, they were unbeatable. In the end, as quiet as it’s kept, we all know that even if 9 time Olympic Gold Medalist Carl Lewis had not been snubbed and included as the anchor leg, he could have never ran down Canada’s Donovan Bailey, who at that time, was the fastest man on earth. When Bailey crossed the finish line, miles ahead of the rest (on a relative scale) Canada exploded in celebration, and they had every reason to enjoy their success. For not only did they strip the Americans of a marquee title, but they did so on American soil. But the moral to this jaunt down history lane, is that Team USA’s self-implosion before the race, was the cause of such humiliation, they could not measure success in a Silver Medal.
Men’s 400m Finals
1992 Barcelona Summer Games
WHEN MEASURING SUCCESS
by Kendall F. Person
In the states, Track & Field struggles to make headlines, outside of a summer Olympic year. Marion Jones may have been the final nail in the coffin, but there were plenty of nails without her fabricated celebrity. No disrespect to the cycling fans, you have won the Duped Crown, fair and square. Lance Armstrong took cheating to a place of decadence and excess; to a distorted reality, incapable of enjoying the increments of success. Shooting for the moon or content staying at home, it is a valuable lesson to learn; success is not measured on the Beyoncé or Jeff Bezos scale alone.
In 1992, at the Olympic Games in Barcelona, irony would rule the day, schooling the world on its biggest stage in a most profound, yet tender way. For fans of the foot race, there is no denying the 100 metre dash is what makes rock stars out of track & field athletes. And much respect to the distance runners, as it is a marvel to watch, when their extra gear kicks in on the last mile of a 26 mile race. However, few track enthusiast will debate, it is the middle distance runners they admire most, with the 400 metre dash besting the 800 by a small, yet significant margin.
To the unfamiliar, one lap around the track may not sound like much, but ponder the fact: it is a foot race – akin to the 100 metres – but 300 metres longer.
“The measure of who we are
is what we do with what we have.”
– Vince Lombardi
The world record – a blinding 43.03 seconds – held by South African Wayde van Niekerk, set at the 2016 Rio De Janeiro Olympics, ending Michael Johnson’s breathtaking 17 year reign. But much like the victory of Canada’s 1996 Relay Team, Johnson’s celebrated career was the result of hard work, dedication and a measure of success, that required nothing short of record-breaking wins. But there is also Derek Redmond, perhaps the most famous Olympian to place dead last. His international success derived by holding up high the spirit and meaning of the Olympics – the world’s last peacetime event.
A gold medalist at the World Championships, when Redmond took his mark at the 1992 Barcelona Summer Games, he was the preemptive favorite to win the crown, and the British were delirious in a pre-celebration.
The starter’s gun sounded off and he blasted out the blocks, taking the first turn in record time. But as he blazed down the backstretch, easily making up the staggered start, his body would give out, and right before our eyes, he collapsed to the track defeated by his own muscle and the 400 metre dash. But when track officials arrived to haul him away, he rose on his own two feet, and hobbled the rest of the way, shaking his fist at the jaws of defeat. From out of the stands, they tried to hold him back, but his father would have none of it. He joined his son, on the homestretch, who by then, was screaming in agony. Yet he helped him succeed by crossing the finishing line, to a standing ovation and roaring applause.
“Measure your mind’s height
by the shade it casts.” – Robert Browning
While I pray and I hope that each of you reach your ultimate goals, if we do not learn to celebrate every level, we may live a life of letdown, disappointments. If we do not understand that each time we run faster, throw further and do things that we have never done, are successes to be learned from, we may never reach our desired level. If we do not comprehend that a second place medal made from hard work and sweat is leaps and bounds greater than a gold made from lies and cheats, than we will never understand the true meaning of success, forever defined by defeat.
— this is…. The Neighborhood
A father’s love and a son’s determination… your beautiful writing touched my heart and your words have given me inspiration too. Thank you!
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Hi Kendall, kudos for an excellent piece of writing. I found it to be both moving and inspirational. Derek Redmond is a true Olympian, showing how the human spirit can triumph over setbacks. It has got me thinking about my own circumstances and concluding that coming second, third or even last is perfectly okay – provided we learn something from the experience and become a better person without sacrificing our integrity. I hope it’s okay if I “steal” your last paragraph for one of my future blogs. Really powerful!
Well, it’s no longer stealing since you told me (big smile ). I am reminding the young writers moreso than a long term reader and experienced blogger, link/credit as appropriate. So good to know my words hit home. Always a pleasure.
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