How the grit of Derek Redmond and the support of his father inspired the world.
“Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.” -Confucius
Did you finish strong?
Whether we view this question through the lens of how we conclude each of our days or how we cross the finish line at the end of our lives, finishing strong should be something for which we all strive. And one of the greatest examples I know of what it looks like to finish strong is British runner Derek Redmond.
In the 1992 Olympic Games, Derek expected to win gold in the 400-meter. In the first round of qualifications, he posted the fastest time. In the quarterfinals, he won the heat.
In the semi-finals, the Olympic Stadium filled to witness the men’s 400-meter. When the pistol sounded, Derek raced to an early lead and remained out front with 65,000 cheering from the stands. No one louder than his dad.
But then it happened.
With a pop in Derek’s right hamstring, his beautiful running cadence transformed into a contorted man grabbing his leg, bouncing on one foot, hobbling forward, and ultimately falling onto the track. Knowing that a similar injury during the Olympics four years earlier had ended Derek’s race, his father’s heart sank.
Amazingly, though, Derek got up.
He began hopping on one leg trying to finish the race. He fell repeatedly, pulled himself up, hopped a few more steps, and fell again.
Although the winner had already crossed the finish line, the stadium realized a more important competition was just beginning.
Rather than hobbling off and quitting, the injured Derek continued the race on one leg. One painful hop at a time, each one a little slower and more agonizing than the last, Derek continued to limp and lurch and fall his way forward. From the stands, Derek’s dad suddenly appeared on the track. Jim Redmond had jumped over the stadium railing, dodged Olympic security, and raced to his son’s aid.
With Dad’s help, Derek continued the unorthodox and emotionally stirring race. As they hobbled around the track together, Derek was overcome by the emotion and sobbed. He leaned on his father, occasionally putting his head on his shoulder. Together, arm and arm, father and son- with 65,000 people screaming encouragement, clapping loudly and crying with them- crossed the finish line.
It’s perhaps the most remarkable finish in Olympic history.
My friends, we live in a culture that celebrates winners. We look up to the best athletes and the first-place finishers. We elevate the most attractive celebrities and the biggest personalities. We are fascinated by flash and glamour and beauty and success.
And yet, the very things that garner so much envy have short shelf lives. Beauty fades. Medals rust. Money vanishes. Success, it turns out, is fleeting.
Few people in the stadium that day could recall who won the 400-meter semi-final race. Far fewer have any clue who won that race more than three decades later.
But the story of a father and a son, and the dedication revealed by both to finish strong, continues to be remembered and serves as an outstanding reminder of what real victory looks like.
My friends, be reminded that more worthy than the ultimate standings of our lives are the grit, determination, faithfulness and courage to live it well. And be open to leaving the comfort of the stands to race onto the track, put your arms around another in need, and help them finish strong, too.
Because the success we aspire to won’t be found in what we accomplish in our lives, but in how we encourage others to finish strong in theirs.
This is your day. Live inspired.