My favorite Olympic moment occurred Sunday night.
It had nothing to do with the history made in the swimming pool or the dream team on the basketball court. It wasn’t the Walsh and May-Trainer dynamic duo in beach volleyball or America’s sweethearts in gymnastics. It happened so fast I almost missed it. Only 46 seconds, followed by a quick interview, before newscasters and videographers moved to other Olympians, events and news.
When the men’s 400m semi-final race appeared on our television screen, Troy and I stood in our kitchen cleaning a counter full of dishes. As he washed and I dried, we watched the Olympics. But the moment Oscar Pistorious took his lane and prepared to start, we abandoned the dishes and walked into the family room slack-jawed.
“Is this the para-olympics?” I looked from the screen to Troy, confused.
I’d missed the pre-Olympic stories about Pistorious, hadn’t heard a word about him. Until that moment, when I stared at a man climbing into the starting blocks with two carbon-fiber prosthetic legs where flesh and bone should be.
He doesn’t have any legs.
I blinked. Blinked again. It’s inconceivable for a double-amputee to run with the world’s fastest able-bodied runners. Inconceivable he would survive one race let alone all the races leading up to the Olympic semi-finals. Inconceivable he’d overcome all the opposition and the thousands of reasons to quit.
But that is precisely what happened. When interviewed following the heat, Pistorious said he’d set a goal to place in an Olympic semi-finals. And, although he placed last in his heat, and 23rd out of 24 total semi-finalists, he did it. He ran his race.
I could hardly move after those 46 seconds. Neither could Troy. We stood in our family room, dish towels in hand. Stunned. Speechless. Utterly inspired.
As I returned to the kitchen, I thought of all the hard races I’m attempting to run: writing a book, blending a family, speaking publicly, mothering teenagers, building a marriage, growing a business, helping three littles to heal …
And then I thought of the many days I’m tempted to quit, give up my race. Every week—every week!—I wonder if these impossibilities are too hard, too much, too big for someone with my weaknesses and disabilities. I think of how tired I am and all the ways I don’t have what it takes. The training seems too hard, the opposition too great, my talent too thin for the oh-so-slim chance of success.
But then I remember Oscar Pistorious. And carbon-fiber where legs should be. Running with enough heart for all of us in the 2012 London Olympics. And I think …
It’s not about what you’re missing, but what you still have.
Maybe you and I can run our race after all.
Are you tempted to quit? What must you overcome to keep going?
As I read your incredibly inspiring post, not knowing anything of Pistorious myself, I had to reflect on my life, my race, in comparison. Like you, there are days that seem so overwhelming, as if I’ll never reach the finish line.
Intentional or not, this is what I hear in your writing. The inspiration to be pulled from this story has nothing to do with a 46 second sprint. However, it has everything to do with the marathon of training to accomplish our goals because of what we have.
Thanks, Michele! Great inspiration this morning.
You’re absolutely right, Chad. It took a lifetime of determination and effort and overcoming to lead up to that 46 seconds. Same is true for us.
Michelle, I’d read about Pistorious (probably an SI article) before. I remember part of his struggle included having to convince the ruling authorities that he could legitimately compete with the “normal” runners. Odd to think that one of the questions for a runner without legs was: Did he have an unfair advantage?
I laugh remembering Anthony Robles, a one-legged athlete and a national collegiate wrestling champion. A sports commentator spoke about the words “unfair advantage” being bandied about when Robles won. The commentator kept making his points and punctuating them with “Did I tell you? He only had one leg.”
Great article and worth sharing (which someone did with me and I now do with others).
I heard the claims of an “unfair advantage,” and kept shaking my head in disbelief. Mind-boggling, isn’t it? It confirmed that anything worthwhile will encounter opposition. Anything—even a legless man running at the Olympics. And, certainly, you and I in our pursuits as well.
I so love your line “its not about what you’re missing, but about what you still have!” I’m finding that my friends often serve as my prosthetic legs–the very things (ones) that keep me going even when I want to give up. They inspire and challenge. Support and encourage. Listen and understand, then tell me it’s time to run, again.
So true, Stacy. I’m so grateful for the borrowed legs helping me run right now!
Love, Love, Love!!