The Photos of Summer: The Agony of Defeat
July 1, 2012
I can’t even look at this photo without tearing up. Months and months of training. Sacrificing. All done with a single goal in mind– make it to the Junior Olympics.
He had already qualified for the finals in the 100M, an extremely competitive event where the difference between first place and fiftieth place is measured in tenths of a second and between medaling and not medaling in hundredths of a second. Less than the blink of an eye.
The other three events he competes in were supposed to be the “easier” ones for him– discus, javelin, and the 4×100 relay.
And then warming up to throw the discus, he lost his balance and rolled his ankle over the edge of the ring. He fell to the ground and couldn’t get up. He couldn’t put any weight on it. They moved him to a chair, his coach taped his ankle. He came to the realization that it was over, not just this event, but the running ones. I’m not sure disappointment is a big enough word to encompass the emotion.
Meanwhile the event continued on. His name came up and the official walked over and said, “Your son isn’t competing, is he?”
“I’m not quitting.”
The official looked at me, questioning. I shrugged, “It’s not my choice. It’s all his.”
He got up, hopped on one foot all the way into the ring, his face twisted in pain. Other coaches and parents cheered him on.
He threw the disc while standing on one foot.
It was a good thing I was wearing my big sunglasses.
He knew he had almost no chance of moving on, but he refused to give up.
He hopped out there three times.
It’s not a happy ending story in the sense that he miraculously medaled in the event. The top eight go on to the finals, then the top five qualify for Junior Olympics. He came in ninth.
His ankle didn’t magically heal enabling him to run the relay in the afternoon. No, three of his teammates also got to share the disappointment.
The last event of the day on Saturday was javelin. It involves running, doing these cross over steps, culminating in throwing the javelin. He wasn’t able to do any of that. He had to stand still on one foot and throw it.
There is no other explanation than sheer will, but he managed to place fourth and will be moving on to the Junior Olympics next month.
Never would he have imagined a scenario where he would be happy to get fourth place.
And now we wait and hope that he heals quickly enough for the pentathlon this weekend.