You may not recognize Derek Redmond’s name or face, but perhaps you know his story. He is featured briefly near the end of Nike’s inspirational “Courage” commercial.
Derek was a 26-year-old sprinter representing the UK at the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona. After a number of serious injuries, five operations and subsequent recoveries, he had been widely favored to win the gold medal in the 400-meter sprint, and it was on this high note that he intended to end his career.
Half way through the semifinal, a hamstring pull he later described in a documentary as “being shot in the leg” forced him to limp and then fall to the ground in pain. True. Athletes are injured every day, people gasp a little, and the incident is replayed for 24 hours until it is no longer news and fades away. This is not how his story ends.
Kneeling on the ground as if in prayer, knowing his career and his Olympic dream are over, Derek rose to his feet and continued. As he hopped along the track on one leg with a steely resolve, the stadium rose to their feet and cheered. What makes this story extraordinary is what happened next.
It was only until Derek had a strong shoulder to lean on that his anguish became palatable, he crumpled and broke down in tears, and they crossed the finish line together.
The wave of emotion that came over me when I watched this scene play out live almost 16 years ago is the same emotion I feel now, and the Redmond story will remain forever etched in my memory. It is not only a testament to the human spirit and the strength of one’s will, but also what can be accomplished with the unconditional love of even one person.