Twenty years later, watching the video of Derek Redmond clinging to his daddy as he hobbles down the track in Barcelona, Spain, still makes my eyes well with tears.
It doesn’t matter how many times I view the video on YouTube or who else is in the room with me when I’m watching it, the dang thing just makes me misty.
So when co-workers Aaron Garcia and Andrew Stark and I were discussing our greatest Olympic memories, this was a no-brainer for me.
I know it sounds crazy.
A semifinal 400-meter race?
Featuring a guy who hails not from the United States but Great Britain?
Taking place at the same Olympics made famous by the Dream Team’s beatdowns on the Barcelona basketball courts?
Yep, for me, the moment was that dramatic.
Unlike some of the Olympics’ most-discussed moments, people still don’t know Redmond’s backstory – how he endured numerous injuries throughout a record-breaking (for Great Britain) career and how he underwent eight surgeries heading into the 1992 Games.
He actually had qualified for the 1988 Olympics in Seoul, Korea, but just 90 seconds before his heat began, he had to pull out of the event because of an injury to his Achilles’ heel. But he was determined to have his Olympic experience, and he battled back, despite the rampant injuries to qualify for the Barcelona Games.
He felt good, and he was favored to earn a medal in ’92. And Redmond certainly looked strong when he began that fateful semifinal race. Then, as he told media outlets later on, he felt as if he’d been shot in the back of the leg. In mid-stride, he crumpled to the ground with a torn hamstring as the other runners dashed on to the finish line.
His race was finished.
At least that’s the way it seemed.
But as the track officials who’d run to his aid tried to help him off to the sidelines, a crying Redmond pushed them away and began limping the final 200 meters or so to the finish. It was sad to watch at times because Redmond clearly was in excruciating pain. It appeared that he wasn’t going to make it.
But out of nowhere, a man appeared in the picture. He could be seen having his own battle with track officials who were trying to keep him away. But he was too strong, too determined.
The man ran up to Redmond’s side and put his arm around him. Initially, Redmond thought it was more people trying to pull him to the sidelines, so he resisted – until he saw who it was: his father, Jim.
With his son still hobbling and weeping, Jim told his son they were going to finish the race together, no matter how long it took.
To me, this race epitomized the spirit of the Olympic Games: determination, resilience, character. Basically, you go through hell to get there, and when you do, almost nothing’s going to stop you.
And in full-disclosure, that moment with the Redmonds also resonated with me because it involved a father and son.
Unfortunately, I never met my father. But growing up, I always dreamed/wished I’d have one of those dads who’d be there, right by my side, any time I was at my most vulnerable. To see that with the Redmonds that day, kept my dream alive, even though it never came true. But it also planted a seed in me to be there for my son, whenever I had one, no matter what.
Redmond finished last that day. But for me, he and his father always will be No. 1.