The curtain has closed on the Games of the XXXII Olympiad – the Tokyo 2020 Summer Olympics. Whether or not you were watching, I heard some powerful stories and I thought I would share a few. These are stories about people who won gold medals. However, this is in no way meant to ignore the stories of so many others who did not medal.
The gold medal in High Jump was jointly awarded to Mutaz Essa Barshim of Qatar and Gianmarco Tamberi of Italy. At the end of the competition, both men were in a tie for first place. Rather than engage in a jump-off to determine who would be awarded gold, and who would be awarded silver, they chose to share the gold medal. Wow! At the pinnacle of sporting competition, for two athletes to choose to share a gold medal is unheard of.
The interesting thing is that despite being competitors, these men are also friends. They chose to share the spotlight rather than having one take all the glory. Both of them had battled the same injury in the years leading up to the Olympics and they had been each other’s support during that time. So they knew what it took to get there and sharing the medal just seemed right. Talk about being self-less.
Sifan Hassan (@sifanhassan) from the Netherlands epitomized what it means to never give up. This incredible athlete won three medals. In the heats of the 1500m, she tripped and fell, ending up in last place. She was a considerable distance behind all the other runners. Not only did she get up and continue the race, but she passed the other runners and won the race. She went on to claim the bronze in the final of the 1500m and then she subsequently captured the gold medal in both the 5000m and the 10,000m. If determination was a person, it would be this young lady.
Allyson Felix (@allysonfelix) cemented herself in history as the most decorated track-and-field athlete. She competed in this her fifth and last Olympics at age 35, leaving with a gold medal in the 4X400m relay and a bronze in the 400m. What is inspiring about this amazing woman is that she gave birth via caesarean section in 2018. In the process, she nearly died from complications. She has spoken publicly about having to hide her pregnancy from her sponsor, a multi-billion-dollar corporation, which wanted to cut her compensation due to her pregnancy and refused to guarantee her earnings if she did not perform at pre-pregnancy levels after giving birth.
She stood up for herself and parted ways with them, but not before securing maternity rights for all women who will come after her. Realizing that she wouldn’t have spikes to wear due to her severance of the sponsorship deal, she formed her own company, along with her brother, which designed and produced the spikes that she wore at the Olympics. She has proven to the world that pregnancy and motherhood does not diminish a woman’s value.
Jamaican gold-medal winning 110m hurdler Hansle Parchment (@parchment_hansle) shared in a now-viral Instagram video that on the day of the semi-final he accidentally boarded the wrong bus. He thought the bus was heading to the Olympic stadium but instead it went to an aquatic centre. Upon arrival, he was told he would have to return to the Olympic village and board another bus there. If he had done that he would not have arrived at the stadium in time to participate in his race. He found a volunteer (an angel in disguise) and he begged her for help. She gave him all the money she had so that he could take a taxi to the stadium.
The rest is history. He made it through to the final where he won the gold medal. The beautiful part of the story is that he returned to find her 2 days later, to thank her for her help, to repay her the money she gave him and to show her the gold medal that she was instrumental in helping him to achieve. If you have lost faith in mankind, this story of the kindness of a stranger should hopefully encourage you. Do what you can to help others whenever you can. You may never know the impact your actions can have on someone else’s life.
These are just a few of the stories about people who made it to the podium, but what about those who didn’t? There were exponentially more athletes who went home empty-handed than those who went home with medals. That in no way diminishes their efforts. They made it to the pinnacle of their sports, they gave it their all – blood, sweat and tears – and that is cause for celebration. It is a perfect metaphor for life, sometimes you give it your all, but you fall short. The effort is never wasted, you learn something along the way and in the end, it definitely makes you stronger. Keep going. Don’t quit. Kudos to everyone who made it to the Olympics, regardless of the outcome and hearty congratulations to the medalists.