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trained so very hard for the event. These Olympics were special,
so very special. There were those who mocked the handicapped
competitors as not really being athletes, but that was because
such critics did not understand. George in particular had
worked every day at his event, the 100-metre sprint. Pouring
rain or intense heat, he was at the track every morning.
easy when you are a young man with Downs Syndrome. Any parent
of a challenged child; and most challenged men and women,
will tell you that it's not so much the disability that causes
the problems but the people who discriminate against you for
was stared or laughed at, George responded with smiles. Not
because he thought this was how he was supposed to behave,
but because it was his nature. He could do nothing else. Such
a response confused and worried some, but disarmed and charmed
that he had been selected to run in the games caused George
to, quite literally, jump up and down. His parents had seen
this many times before. Birthdays, Christmas, someone else
in the house receiving good news. Odd, really, that he should
be thought of as handicapped when his joy at his and other
people's pleasure was so pure, so deep and genuine.
what seemed like an endless wait the day of the event arrived.
George was awake at dawn, and made sure, to their qualified
delight, that his mum and dad were out of bed as well. He
had washed himself so clean that he almost seemed to shine.
The trip to the arena was peppered with questions about crowds,
running, times and, most poignant of all, whether Grandma
would be watching.
had died some years earlier. Hey, George knew this. He merely
inquired, eminently reasonably, whether she would be looking
down from heaven to see her favorite grandson run. He was
told that she would. And she would.
last words of advice, and then out to the starting line. Eight
athletes, with George in the middle. Instructions from the
starter, and then the lightning blast from the gun. Off they
sprang, with George as rapid as any of them. It was as if
he could feel the wind lifting him from the ground.
disaster. His legs seemed to become tangled and before he
knew what was happening he had fallen. He screamed.
took a moment for the other seven runners to leave him yards
behind, but George's scream was so loud that they, and the
crowd, all heard. Then, gradually, all of them stopped running.
Instead of continuing on to victory they all turned around
and walked back to where their fellow athlete had fallen.
was crying now, and holding his cut knees close to his chest.
The runners knelt down, cuddled him, wiped away the grit and
blood from his legs, and picked him up. They put their arms
around him, told him it would be okay. Then they linked arms,
all eight, and walked forward. Together in a line, as one
person, they crossed the finish line.
was silent. Then tears could be heard, then a roar of approval
and love so loud that people in neighbouring houses came out
of their homes to see what had happened.
crossed the line the runners cheered, and George began to
jump again, to dance at the beauty and the grace of the moment.
cried and held one another very tight, the organizers hurriedly
got hold of seven extra gold medals, other athletes ran to
the eight heroes and patted them on their backs so hard that
it hurt. Grandma merely smiled along the golden rays of the
sun's warm embrace. This was community, this was goodness,
this was the way it was supposed to be.
George, he couldn't stop talking about how
hard the ground had been when he fell over.
"Did you see me fall mum, did you see
me fall?" Yes, his mum said. But more
important, she had seen him rise. And seen
God's love for all his creatures on glorious
Coren is a renowned columnist, broadcaster and author. An
extended version of this article is about to appear in a book
entitled Mere Christian, published by Augsburg Fortress Press.
Visit Michael's website to order books, read sample columns,
and check out his broadcasting and speaking schedules. www.michaelcoren.com