The Olympics are the pinnacle of achievement for many athletes around the world.
A medal is won when talent, plus hard work, plus sacrifice, plus a determined mind come together. The winner stands on the podium with a gold medal for a few minutes and is admired by the world. Many years of dedicated sacrifice culminates in a moment of glory. The athlete then hangs the medal in a prominent place to be admired and remembered, mostly by the medal winner.
In time the glory of that moment fades into a distant memory. That medal gathers dust and occasionally someone passes by and with a glance, barely mentions its place in history.
I have a vague memory of a young lady who ran a marathon in the Olympics. Her effort was so astounding that I’ve never forgotten it. I’ve looked and researched to find her name and possibly an archived video on YouTube and have failed. Even though I don’t know her name, what she did inspires me to this day.
She didn’t actually receive a medal. In fact, she came in last. The marathon is the last race of the Olympics. It finishes in the great stadium where tens of thousands cheer the winners. This young lady had apparently become dehydrated and her body became almost dysfunctional. But she would not quit.
The cameraman and announcer and a few officials were the only ones left when she entered the stadium and started the last lap. The arena was almost entirely empty. She entered hobbling and almost crawling into that last lap. She looked as though she were crippled. Each step appeared to be agony. It took forever to make that last lap. I cheered every step. I yelled at the TV, “One more step. You can do it. One more step!” She fell into the arms of an official at the finish line. A few lonely claps could be heard. Those who were required to wait until the last one crossed the finish line clapped as though they were obligated.
This young lady has no medal, but she has my heart. I want to finish well. I want to win my race, for myself. It can be lonely. Nobody cheers. It can be discouraging, painful and even unrewarding at times.