The power of perseverance

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Monday 28 December 2009

The story of Tanzanian marathon runner John Stephen Akhwari is perhaps my favourite Olympic moment of all time. While he lost the marathon by literally miles at the 1968 Mexico City Olympics, he won the hearts of millions around the world (isn't that a nice bit of schmultzy writing).

Anyway for those who want a story in great perseverance followed by a James Bond like one liner at the end here goes:

Akhwari's story occurred forty years ago, when he attended the Mexico City Olympics at the age of 30.
Not long after the start of the marathon at the Mexico Olympics, Akhwari fell down and was badly injured, because he was not used to the climate of Central America. The other runners passed him one after another, and his chance of winning a medal became extremely slim. However, he didn't quit, and insisted on finishing the race.

When Akhwari limped into the stadium on bloody and bandaged legs an hour after the winner of the race had left, there were only a few spectators remaining in the stands. They were shocked to see Akhwari wincing with pain at every step toward the finish line, and they felt grateful to witness such a touching moment.

When asked why he didn't retire from the race, Akhwari's answer is calm and simple.

    "My country did not send me 5000 miles to start the race, they sent me 5000 miles to finish the race!"


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