Truly Great Olympic Moments


Truly Great Olympic Moments
By Joan Ryan

    Editors Note: The following two
    wonderful stories appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle in the USA, in
    a column by Joan Ryan.

    Not all the heroes are winners
    Film Maker Bud Greenspan was packing up
    his cameras after the men’s marathon at the Mexico City Olympics in 1968.
    An Ethiopian named Mamo Wolde had won the race in an emotional tribute
    to his teammate, two-time defending Olympic champion Abebe Bikila. Bikila
    had fractured his leg and couldn’t finish the race. Greenspan knew he had
    compelling footage, the kind that has defined his award-winning Olympic

    Suddenly a reporter ran up to him. You ought to film
    this, the man said. Greenspan looked up.

    Into the darkened stadium hobbled a solitary figure, his
    right leg bandaged in two places. He winced with every step. The race had
    been over for more than an hour, but John Stephen Akhwari of Tanzania still
    ran. The several thousand spectators who had lingered in the stadium began
    to clap, slowly and steadily, as Akhwari made his way around the track.
    When finally he stumbled across the finish line, holding his damaged leg
    with both hands, the crowd roared.

    Greenspan recorded every painful, triumphant moment. I
    asked him. ‘Why did you do this? You were in such pain, and you couldn’t
    win.’ Greenspan recalled. He looked at me like I was crazy. Mr. Greenspan,
    I don’t think you understand. My country did not send me 5,000 miles to
    start the race. They sent me 5,000 miles to finish it.’

    One of my favorite stories is about American Bill Havens,
    who was a favorite for a rowing medal in 1924. A few months before the
    Games, he learned the due date for his first child fell during the two
    week Olympic competition in Paris. His wife urged him to go, but Havens
    gave up his place on the team to be with her during the birth. His son
    Frank, was born four days after the Olympics were over. In the summer of
    1952, Havens received a telegram from Helsinki, the site of the Olympics
    that year. It read, Dear Dad, thanks for waiting around for me to get
    born in 1924. I’m coming home with the gold medal you should have won.
    Your loving son. Frank. Havens son had won the gold in the 10,000 meter
    canoeing event.

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