Dr Rajan Philips -
Winners are of two kinds. Those who win medals and those who may not, but win the unalloyed admiration of spectators. I realised this as I watched the live action of some of the gripping events at the ongoing 2012 London Olympics.
The medal winning athletes get the lion’s share of media attention and adulation of the sporting world. But let me share with you a few lasting images created by a few extraordinary stars irrespective of whether they achieve a podium finish or not.
Polish table tennis star Natalia Partyka played her heart out and lost narrowly. I thought she was more positive and aggressive than her opponent and played gallantly. What is incredible is that she is really a Paralympic athlete, who won gold in 2004 and silver in 2008 Paralympics but who has become only the second ever athlete to qualify for consecutive Open Olympic Games — Beijing and now London. She was born without a right arm, and this left-hander has devised her own way to toss up the ball with her elbow. It was truly an extraordinary sight.
There are a few cancer survivors competing with assurance at these Olympics. An example is Eric Lee Shanteau, an American swimmer taking part in the 100-metre breaststroke. He had competed in the 200-metre breaststroke at the 2008 Olympics, in Beijing, only weeks after being diagnosed with testicular cancer. Returning to the United States, he underwent surgery and fought his way back to competitive sports.
American beach volleyball player Jake Gibb is also a two time Olympian (in 2008 and 2012) as well as a two-time cancer survivor, of testicular and skin cancer.
Natalie du Toit, a South African amputee swimmer, took part in the Beijing Olympics and is back in the London Olympics.
Another sensational South African athlete is the sprinter, Oscar Pistaorius who was born without a fibula in either leg. Both his legs were amputated below the knee when he was a baby. Nicknamed the Blade Runner, he became a world class runner who runs on two prostheses, which look like blades. He has already crossed the first hurdle and qualified for the semifinals of the 400m race in the ongoing Olympics.
Sanya Richards-Ross the American 400m runner suffers from a rare autoimmune disease called Behcet’s Disease which causes severe mouth ulcers and lesions, fatigue and joint pain. That has not dissuaded her from giving in her best.
There have been tales of such inspirational courage in the past too. One outstanding instance is that of Wilma Rudolf. She had to overcome incredible odds in her childhood, being born into a poor family as one of 22 kids and struck with polio that virtually crippled her. It was difficult to dream of a normal life leave alone that of a great track and field star. Yet, she became the first American female to win three Olympic gold medals!
What I have indicated are just a few of the many abiding tales of inspiration from the Olympics that should help us tide over our minor setbacks and snags that we assume are colossal.
Olympic Games are a celebration of youth power in consonance with the motto Citius, Altius, Fortius . While we applaud and admire the medal winners, let us be inspired by the amazing exploits of heroes and heroines of a different mould, who never let adversity overwhelm them, and thus offer valuable lessons to lesser mortals like us.
Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s courage. — Anais Nin
Perseverance is not a long race; it is many short races one after another. — Walter Elliott