The 2014 Olympics in Sochi, Russa has really captured my heart with the inspirational background stories. Stories such as the Canadian coach (former Team USA member) that was a Good Samaritan, to Alexander Bilodeau defending his Gold Medal and rushing to the sidelines as soon as he could to find his older brother Frederic, and to Canadian speedskater Gilmore Junio giving up his spot to fellow teammate Denny Morrison and Morrison subsequently clinching a silver medal for Canada. These stories (to me) capture the Olympics spirit.
I was witness to an inspirational story tonight from the Men’s Figure Skating, Short Program. Whenever I watch figure skating events on TV, most skaters seem to take a tumble performing their triple axle and quad jumps. Tonight, against my better judgement, I turned on the TV and started to watch.
Jeremy Abbott was skating for Team USA. I was there when he skated for the Team Competition, and his subsequent score may have been the strongest factor that cost Team USA dearly. This time around, I was rooting for him (yes, a member of Team USA) trying my best to send mental positive vibes to help him forget about his huge disappointment from before.
The music started and before long the commentators noted it was time for Jeremy to attempt the quad jump, a jump that can turn out to be Kryptonite for many skaters even at this level. It happened in a flash: Jeremy jumped, landed, crashed onto the ice and slid into the boards. And he stayed there.
The arena went dead silent. I was sitting there with one hand clamped over my gaping mouth. I can’t even remember if the music was still playing. I knew something was wrong when two seconds later Jeremy was still motionless on the ice. Ten seconds. An eternity passed. Everyone likely thought he would have to be hauled off on a stretcher.
An instant replay showed his hip took the full brunt of the fall. During my youth I was fortunate enough to spend many years ice-skating. Towards the end of my skating experience the instructors were starting to teach us spins and much simpler versions of the jumps. Even falling on the ice as a kid, hurt. When you combine the fact Jeremy fell from a much higher distance and at a much higher speed…you get the idea.
A miraculous thing happened. He stirred. His face was contorted with pain, perhaps physical, perhaps emotional, perhaps a mixture of both. You could tell he was trying to regain his senses, to debate his next step. I do not think anyone would have blamed Jeremy if he had elected to walk away at that moment. He made his decision, and once again you could see the change in expression on his face. He was fighting, literally clawing at the sideboard to get back up.
The entire stadium changed. Every single person in attendance, regardless of nationality, was cheering him on. It was a huge inspiration to see him stand upright, pain still etched in his face, and take his first few glides. He would go on on to skate the rest of his program, landing all jumps and other technical requirements with near perfection. When the music stopped, the crowd absolutely roared.
In my eyes, Jeremy’s actions is an inspiration. He showed us what can be accomplished when you make the decision to fight, even on the heels of a crushing personal (and very public) failure. The audience showed the power that comes from uniting together for a common purpose, in this case supporting and cheering for this one individual. His resulting score shocked everyone; the judges ended up giving (what was seen as) a minor deduction for his fall. In my books, this is a great definition of the Olympic spirit not just from the athletes, but from all those in attendance that day.