Olympic Moment ©

Will Jones’s Olympic Moment

olympicWhat was your Olympic moment?  I don’t mean the day you went for the gold, although you may have had one of those, but the day you watched an Olympic event, either in person or on TV, and it changed your life?

Mine happened as a pre-teen watching the Rome Olympics on TV in 1960.  Imperial Bodyguard Abebe Bikila, a last minute addition to the Ethiopian Olympic team, won the marathon in record time…in his bare feet.  It was the first Olympic Gold Medal ever won by a Sub-Saharan athlete.  I watched the race on my parents’ newly purchased Zenith color console.

The 1960 marathon started and ended at the Arch of Constantine, next to the Colosseum.  In a spectacular and mesmerizing display of romance and artistry, the last few miles of the race were run in the dark with only occasional spotlights to illuminate the course.  Bikila, tall and graceful in red shorts and green singlet, the Ethiopian colors, out sprinted his lone challenger to the finish line and through the Arch, the lights of the Colosseum behind him.  Bikila became my hero and I vowed to someday run a marathon and win a medal of my own.

Bikila won the marathon again at the Tokyo Olympics in 1964.  In 1969 he was paralyzed in an accident while driving the Volkswagen Bug given to him by Haile Selassie for his Olympic conquests.  The accident occurred when he swerved to avoid student protesters on the streets of Addis Ababa. He died of complications in 1973. He was only 41.

On December 18, 1983, I ran my first marathon, finishing in three hours and twenty-six minutes.  I dedicated my training and race to my pregnant wife, my soon-to-be-born son, and my inspiration, the great Olympian, Abebe Bikila.  A few months later I was fortunate to be in the Los Angeles Colosseum when Joan Benoit won the first women’s Olympic Marathon.  The temperature was in the 90’s but I remember getting the chills as she entered the stadium and circled the track to the finish line, tens of thousands of fans on their feet cheering as she passed.

What was your Olympic moment?  BOBB and I would love to know.

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11 Responses to Olympic Moment ©

  1. Gold medals, one of the achievements that tell the world you are the best. And, then there are Olympic moments where you tell yourself you are the best. Today’s story tells of such a moment. ~ shinazy

  2. Will – This is a spectacular question. My Olympic moment was when Rulon Gardner beat the unbeatable Russian, Alexander Karelin, in Greco-Roman wrestling.

    I was actually a fan of Karelin – dubbed “The Experiment” – because he was touted (and proved to be) the most dominant wrestler ever. He won Olympic Gold in 88, 92 and 96 and was undefeated for over a decade. And then Gardner came along in 2000 – literally a corn-fed farm boy (and he looked the part) – and wrestled Karelin to a stunning 1-0 defeat. In their match, Karelin gave up a single point to Gardner (Karelin’s first point in 10 years) when he dropped his hand and broke his grip.

    For my generation, the USA vs. Russia, Democracy vs. Communism, Super Power vs. Super Power conflict will always be palpable. We were raised on movies that pit American heroes against Communist villains (e.g., Rocky IV). With Gardner’s win, national pride took over. While I always admired Karelin for his superhero status (he had his own super power called the “Karelin Lift”), I admired (and still admire) Gardner more for reaffirming that David can still beat the unbeatable Goliath.

    • Such a contrast in appearance! Karelin literally looked invincible and Rulon looked like he’d been sitting on the couch eating cheetos all his life. It was a great moment. With all of its faults, the Olympics still provides opportunities for unforgettable moments involving real human being triumphing over insurmountalbe odds. Another for me is Billy Mills winning the 10K in 1964.

  3. I have three, and I can’t choose one over the other. Two are from the 1968 Olympics: Bob Beamon’s 29′ long jump, and Al Oerter winning his 4th consecutive Olympic gold medal in the discus. Then there is the 1980 Winter Olympics and the U.S. Hockey team taking the gold. Do you believe in miracles?

    • My wife and I had just started dating in early 1980 and we watched the “miracle on ice” together in a local bar. The bar is still their and we have fond memories of the moment.

  4. Thank you for the spirit of this post: asking us to reflect upon transformational moments inspired by courage and talent rather than the shared, traumatic anniversaries of December 7 or September 11. My Olympic moment involved another 10th grade student whose name I no longer recall. He stood up to a teacher who had momentarily lost her way by belittling one young man almost daily. This brave boy stood and said, “Stop! What you’re doing is wrong.” Other men and women have faced bigger foes. Leymah Gbowee, for example, defeated Charles Taylor without raising a weapon, but that 10th grade boy is her kin. Both saw injustice and spoke of it. Both earned medals in life’s marathon.

    • I feel blessed to have lived in an era when so much injustice has been challenged and so many sacrifices made for human freedom and dignity.

  5. Bobbi Parker

    I can’t say I had an Olympic moment, however, I am inspired by yours. Thanks for bringing the feel of the Olympic spirit down to ground level. No pun intended……

  6. Gabrielle Anderssen-Schiess. THe former ski coack staggering in, 600 meters to go, more dead than alive but who would have killed any offficial that wanted to “retire” her from the race. She moved forward, stumbled on. One runner breezed on by, happy to take the silver medal position. Another, seeing that she had taken the bronze, pumped her fists for the last 600. Finishing 6th, she fell into the waiting Med Evac and was whisked away into LA. I lost np time in getting m gear together, and hitting Mayfield Heights Ave for a good eight miler: my first run in over a month.

  7. Oh – and Kerry Strug, but just like Ally Raisman, she connected to my pride in group because I couldn’t possibly DO anything inspired by them except to teach my 5 year old. Loook out 2024, we’ll be there!!!