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They are the real Champions!

The greatest show on Earth has been a stupendous success so far with an estimated TV viewership of a staggering 3 billion world over(which I'm not part of, thank you NITK!) and ever since Sarah Brightman and Liu Huan sang the official song You and Me on the large spinning globe at the Bird's Nest on 08/08/08, Beijing has managed to get just about everything right. And what an Olympics we've had so far, be it Michael Phelps' domination of everything that had H2O written on it to Isinbaeva raising the bar and our excitement, one centimetre at a time or the fancied American Gays who were at the receiving end of the Jamaican lightning Bolts event after event on the track. But apart form these extraordinary people, there have been a host of other great men and women who, through sheer practice and their never-say-die attitude have broken all imaginable barriers of the mind and body in dramatic fashion. Here are just a few such unsung heroes of the XXIX Summer Olympics at Beijing.

  • Afghanistan won their first ever Olympic medal in the form of Rohullah Nikpai's bronze in taekwondo. Nikpai could achieve this feat despite the utter lack of encouragement and infrastructure, bringing much-needed cheer the strife-torn nation. For more on this, click here.

  • Dutchman Maarten van der Meijden won the 10km marathon swimming event in an astonishing time of 1:51:51.6. What was even more extraordinary about his feat was that he was diagnosed with leukemia in 2001. After a stem cell transplant, he made a grand comeback at the 2003 and 2004 Open Water World Championships where he swam faster than before the disease. He believes his disease made him a better swimmer "When you are in so much pain and lying in a hospital bed, you aren't thinking about the next month or the Olympics, but the next hour". The gold medal around his neck surely couldn't have asked for a better owner.

  • South African swimmer Natalie du Toit is no ordinary Olympian. Her first international competition was the Commonwealth Games of 1998 when she was all of 14. In February 2001 her left leg was amputated at the knee after a scooter accident on her way back to school after swimming practice. Barely three months later, she was back in the pool. After winning several medals at the 2004 Paralympics and the 2006 Commonwealth Games, she managed not only to qualify for Beijing but also finished an astonishing 16th out of 24 in the 10,000m swim. Apart from becoming the first female amputee swimmer ever to qualify for the Olympics, she also became the first disabled athlete to carry her national flag at the opening ceremony of any able-bodied Olympics. I'm sure even a hundred gold medals will do no justice to such a spirit. Oh, and she swims without the aid of a prosthetic limb.

  • The youngest male participant in this edition is an English diver named Thomas Daley who is, believe it or not, fourteen! And the youngest female participant is a swimmer from Cameroon named Antoniette Guedia who is, hold your breath, twelve!!! She finished fourth in the 50m freestyle event.

Before I sign off, kudos to Abhinav Bindra, the man with the golden gun, Sushil Kumar and Vijendra Kumar who kept the tricolour flying high . I wish and pray that we see many more Bindras and Kumars in the future. And kudos to Beijing again for the show ... it couldn't have been better. Over to London for the XXX Games! :)



Citius Altius Fortius indeed....

Keep up the good work, and make sure you keep posting.

Vikram Shashi Mohan
Vikram said…
Nice post. Especially the section about lesser known but equally courageous athletes...

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