A Shoulder To Lean On: My Favorite Olympic Moment


I'm a sucker for track and field. I watch it all except the sprinting. The steeplechase, the hammer throw, the distance races, the high jumping; you name it, I watch it...as long as it isn't a straight away display of speed or a single run around the track, that is. (Although, I have to admit: Usain Bolt is pretty damn fun to watch. Anywho...)

My favorite races are the middle distance runs. The 800, the 1500, and the 5000. These are races that fall in the nasty crevices of human endurance. These races require knowledge about turns and positioning. They demand that runners make in-the-moment decisions about just how much effort they are going to keep in the tank for, say, an unexpected break-away or a down-the-stretch sprint, and then weigh that decision against a constant effort towards the finish line. They are brutal, brutal, brutal races, and while I'm a big fan of the athleticism in the NBA, they got nothing on a Bernard Lagat or Hicham El-Guerrouj. A 40 inch vertical is impressive but a 3:26 1500 meter run is epic.

That being said, I remember turning on the TV back in 1992 to watch, I think, Hassiba Boulmerka run the 1500 and on came the soft emotional music that cued in one of those cheesy special interests stories that tend to plague the Olympic coverage. You know, the ol' Jeremy Schaap/Pat Summeral/Jimmy Roberts bit where they magically have ready-to-play interviews of obscure competitors from back home in Montana or wherever with the Stephen Spielberg lighting and tragic story about the loss of a loved one/pet/family farm/etc. You've seen them. You might even pretend to like them.

However, instead of seeing a story about the discus thrower from Missoula who was separated from his mother at birth only to be unknowingly reunited with her while she was a teacher at his high school and then finding out who she really was just weeks before the Olympics, I caught a clip of a guy running out on the track to help a hobbling sprinter get across the finish line.

Enter Derek Redmond and his dad.

I blubbered. Here was this guy who had set the British record for the 400 meters blowing out his hamstring within the first 1/2 of the race and he was going to do whatever it took to cross the finish line and his dad fought his way past security to give him a shoulder to lean on for the last 50 meters or so. They played it again. I blubbered again. More impressively (and this is the moral of the story), I watched 2 straight 400 meter races. I can't even remember who won the race.

Best of all, it was an uncanned and unplanned emotional story that didn't require all the extra manipulative bells and whistles that typically come along with the GREAT STORIES of Olympic athletes from around the world. There is a lot of natural drama that plays itself out right there on the track and field and it doesn't need War Horse production to make you feel a connection to it. That's why Derek Redmond having his dad's shoulder to lean on at the finish is my favorite Olympic moment.

What is your favorite Olympic moment?

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