You probably don’t recognize the name Derek Redmond. You might recognize his story though. He was a sprinter in 1992 Barcolona Olympics. He was the British record holder and a contender to do well in the 400m. He had an injury-plagued career, but as he prepared for the most important 45 seconds of his life, the announcer claimed that he was in the “best form he’d shown.” About 15 seconds into the race, he tore his hamstring. He crumpled to the ground in pain. If that was the end of his race, no one would remember Derek Redmond, but as a trainer started to attend to him, Redmond got up and started limping around the track. He was determined to finish what he had begun. He was determined to finish the lap.
As he limped around the track, fans started to cheer. Several attendants approached him, but he waved them off. He was alone on the track. A wide shot of him in the video below reveals a strange scene – one man hobbling and barely able to stand, not the usual group of amazing athletes speeding along the curve. As he comes around the turn, the crowd is cheering him on. They understand what he is trying to do. They admire him for it. But then something else happens. Something extraordinary. Something that until recently, I don’ t think I really understood. Watch below.
A man comes out on the track. We don’t see what he had to do to get on the track. We do see him push past one person that tries to stop him. He puts his arm around the wounded athlete, and the recognition on Derek Redmond’s face helps us understand. This is his father.
This is his father who he drapes his arm around. Suddenly, the emotions of the moment catch up to the pain and Derek Redmond buries his face in his father’s chest. His father is now literally holding him up as another attendant comes. This time the guy is more adamant, but there is nothing that is going to take the boy from his father. You can almost read his lips, as he waves the man away, “Get the hell out of here!” is what I think he says.
The two finish the race together while the stadium rose to its feet in appreciation for what they had witnessed. Afterward, the father says, “Whatever happened, he had to finish. And I was there to help him finish. I intended to go over the line with him. We started his career together. I think we should finish it together.”
Derek Redmond is now a motivational speaker. On his website, he gives an interview where he describes his father as “My motivator, my hero, my pal, my bodyguard, my physio and my masseur some days.” I have seen this video of him and his Dad before, but the other day I watched again – perhaps for the first time as a father myself. I started thinking about Derek Redmond’s Dad.
My girls are too young to participate in competitive sports, but I’ve already began to dream about what their future holds. I think about their lives as dancers, athletes, students, friends. I think about the relationships they’ll make, the people they’ll know, the places they’ll go, and the accomplishments that await them. Is the Olympics in their future? Who knows?
As a father I can dream with them. I can dream for them. I can imagine myself watching my daughter in the biggest moment of her life. I can already be nervous, waiting for her chance to shine. I do not know what her dreams will be, but I can imagine being at the cusp of them, ready to emerge victorious.
What would it be like to be watching your son or your daughter run in the most important 45 seconds of their life, and then come up injured. How much would it hurt to see her body lying on the ground, broken; her race over; her career over; her dream over? How much would it hurt to think of the hours of practice, the trips to the gym, the diets, the training, the injuries, the coaching, the sacrifices that had all come to this point, and end with her crumpled on the ground waiting for the stretcher to carry her off the track so they could keep the schedule of the rest of the event?
Then, what would it feel like to see her get up? I remember the first time she fell off of her bike, and I remember with pride the moment she got back on her bike and kept going.
As I watch this video of Derek Redmond hobbling around the track I can see my daughters, struggling to finish something that they set out to achieve. When I dream their future, I don’t dream of them victorious. I dream of them courageous. I don’t dream of them with accolades and fame and money. I dream of them with conviction and perseverance and strength.
And when I see Derek Redmond collapse into the loving arms of his father, I dream that someday I will be able to be there for my daughters. I hope beyond hope that when they face a obstacle in their life that feels bigger than they can handle, that I will be able to be there for them. I hope this in part because I know what it feels like to collapse into the loving arms of my Dad.
The fact remains, I might not always be there for them. So I live every day teaching, praying, reading, dancing, laughing, and crying with them so that they know, and that they will always know that their Daddy loves them. More importantly, I do these things so that they know, and that they will ALWAYS know that our Father, Son, and Holy Spirit loves them. Amen.