The Olympic Legend Who Finished in Last Place | Strangest Moments

The Olympic Legend Who Finished in Last Place | Strangest Moments


Any athlete who makes it to the
Olympic Games deserves our respect. Year upon year of gruelling
training, grinding it out, the same thing again
and again and again – all for just one chance, the one moment, that one goal. The thing is, even for
Olympians, life doesn’t always go
according to plan. Mexico, 1968. The men’s marathon, as usual,
was the final event of all. This is Mamo Wolde. He’s just won the gold medal
in a time of two hours, 20 minutes
and 26 seconds. Mission accomplished,
dream fulfilled. This is what he set out to do. His vision. Gradually, more and more
athletes finish the race. The middle of the pack.
The “also rans”. No medals, no definitive glory,
but a destiny nevertheless. Here are some more, further
back, the final few. The stragglers. And as the dusk falls
on the final event, there’s one more story
to be written, one more gallant loser to
celebrate. One that would become the most
celebrated loser of all. It’s probably not how
Tanzania’s John Stephen Akhwari expected it to go down. But then, John Stephen Akhwari
is not your average everyday kind of guy and the 1968 Games were not your average, everyday
Olympics. The high altitude in Mexico
City had helped produce some remarkable feats in
the sprints and jumps. But for the marathon runners,
the lack of oxygen in the air made an already gruelling task
even harder. As the race went on, more and more fell by the
wayside, unable to survive the cramps. In the end, 18 of the 75
who started were to pull out. Akhwari was determined
not to make it 19. He was a world-class runner,
the reigning African Champion. He’d beaten the eventual
gold medallist Wolde before, but had never run in
conditions like this. Like many of the others, he’d struggled with cramp
through much of the race. But for Akhwari, cramp and
fatigue were the least of his worries. He’d suffered a painful fall, sustaining injuries to his
knee, his shoulder, and head… ..problems that would have
most of us screaming for the Emergency Room
and a cocktail of painkillers. Not Akhwari. Rather than pull out of the
race, he got his knee strapped up and kept on going. Asked afterwards what prompted
him to keep going, he said, “My country did not send me
5,000 miles to start the race. “They sent me 5,000 miles
to finish the race.” And that’s exactly what he did. By the time he approached
the stadium, the medals had been awarded and most of the crowd had gone
home. In the darkness of Mexico City,
Akhwari dug down deep. He was going to finish. Word got around –
TV crews started following. Local radio broadcast the
story. The fans came back to support, to pull him over the finish
line. What goes through the mind
of an athlete in this situation? “I was just thinking
about my mum and dad,” he said as he completed the
final few hundred metres. When he crossed the line,
the time read 3 hours, 25 minutes and 27
seconds. But for once in a race,
the time was irrelevant. His parents had told him, “If you start doing something,
finish it. “Otherwise, never start it,”
and he had listened to them. The sight of Akhwari bandaged
up and limping in the darkness wasn’t the most dynamic image
of the Olympic Games, but it was certainly one of
the strangest.

49 Replies to “The Olympic Legend Who Finished in Last Place | Strangest Moments”

  1. Unrelated but the title immediately reminds me of Steven Bradbury's 'accidental' gold medal

  2. Русские субтитры не соответствуют видео….про фигурное катание рассказывается

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