David Wallechinsky is an American author from an accomplished literary family. Among his many publications is one titled The Complete Book of the Olympics. This 1300 page tome is often described as the “Bible” of Olympic records and information.
In this book, he recounts the story of American sprinter Carl Lewis back in the 1980’s.
At his father's funeral, American Carl Lewis placed his 100-meter gold medal from the 1984 Olympics in his father's hands. "Don't worry," he told his surprised mother. "I'll get another one."
A year later, in the 100-meter final at the 1988 games, Lewis was competing against Canadian world-record-holder Ben Johnson. Halfway through the race Johnson was five feet in front. Lewis was convinced he could catch him. But at 80 meters, he was still five feet behind. It's over, Dad, Lewis thought. As Johnson crossed the finish, he stared back at Lewis and thrust his right arm in the air, index finger extended.
Lewis was exasperated. He had noticed Johnson's bulging muscles and yellow-tinged eyes, both indications of steroid use. "I didn't have the medal, but I could still give to my father by acting with class and dignity," Lewis said later. He shook Johnson's hand and left the track.
But then came the announcement that Johnson had tested positive for anabolic steroids. He was stripped of his medal. The gold went to Lewis, a replacement for the medal he had given his father.
I share this with you, of course, because yesterday was Father’s Day, 2017. And I think that what Carl Lewis did at his own father’s casket was quite appropriate. You see, the rest of the story is that Carl’s parents ran a local athletics club. His mother had been a hurdler on the 1951 Pan-Am team. And his father was his coach until he got to college.
So, when he placed that medal in his father’s casket, it was his way of saying thank you and of acknowledging his debt of gratitude for the investment his parents had poured into him.
In so doing, he serves as an example for a great many of us. It is a worthwhile endeavor to ask oneself just where he or she might (or might not) be today without the love, support, and sacrifice of one’s parents.
I know I have personally been reminded this Father’s Day weekend of just how big a role my own father played in my life, and also of just how indebted to him I am for who I and what I have accomplished in life.
My father has now passed on to his eternal reward. For this reason, I can no longer thank him personally for what all he did for me. But I can find ways to honor his name and his memory by the way I choose to live my life today. I pray that I will always be faithful to do this. I pray the same for you.
BOOK: David Wallechinsky, The Complete Book of the Olympics (London: Aurum Press, 2012 Edition).
NOTE: This book has more than one edition. Given that the Olympic Games role around every four years, it is to be expected that revisions and updates are released.
INTERNET: This illustration is also available on the internet. Cf.: https://bible.org/illustration/gold-medalist-0.
SEE ALSO: http://mentalfloss.com/article/31415/12-olympians-who-dont-keep-their-medals-sock-drawer.