This couch-potato has been watching the Olympics every night, reliving my own meager accomplishments on my high school swimming team where my highest level of achievement was 3rd in the County in the 200 IM.
I was also the second of our team's two divers. Emoke Papp was our 'star' diver. Her father, a Hungarian boxer, defected during the 1956 Olympics. Emoke always took 1st place in our diving competitions and I consistently took 3rd, because none of the other teams had a second diver. My job was to get off the diving board without killing myself, or anyone else.
For me the highlight of Olympics was watching Oscar Pistorius, the South African runner with two prosthetic legs. He was successful in his bid to compete in this year’s—what shall we call them—able-bodied Olympics versus the Paralympics for less able-bodied athletes? Or differently-abled—a category this 3rd-place diver fell into. Anyway, in 2007, the International Association of Athletics Federations, banned Pistorius from competing in able-bodied competitions after tests showed the Cheetah blades allowed him to expend less energy than his two-legged counterparts. In fact, the blades make it harder to get off the starting blocks negating any advantage they give him.
Personally, I found myself on the very edge of my recliner when he ran in the qualifying round and again in the semi-finals. I was disappointed that he didn’t make it through to the finals, but he was out there giving it his all and I was there for him. I’d love to see the Paralympics be part of the Olympics, right there in prime time, instead of separate, a sometime later and ‘lesser’ series of events.
Watching him reminded me of my second attempt at writing--a piece about a wheelchair-bound marathoner. This one was published as a real news story with a picture and a byline, unlike like my first, which was published as an editorial comment. I was living in Coconut Grove, Florida, at the time.
Of course I kept a copy, and didn't resist the urge to noodle it a bit.
The applause and shouts of the spectators reached a sufficient volume to finish any thought of further sleep, so with a cup of coffee in hand, I stood on my balcony to watch the stream of Orange Bowl marathoners pass below.
Most of the runners, especially those early ones, were young men, followed eventually by a few women and a half dozen wheelchair participants.
A heavy-set, elderly man, his sweater stretched tightly across his ample waist, stood on the curb with the other fans and cheered loudly for every runner who passed, but his attention always returned to watching the corner of Tigertail where the runners made the turn on to Mary Street. I found myself waiting anxiously for whoever he was waiting for. Every runner got his full attention before he'd leaned to look up the street again. The ranks were thinning, and it seemed the last of the runners were passing, but he continued to clap and whistle. When he turned from cheering for the next series of stragglers, a young man in the wheelchair was nearly abreast of him.
“All right, Billy,“ he shouted, and leapt into the air like a man half his weight and age. “All right, son,” he said, softly.
For a short distance, he ran along the sidewalk, dodging spectators, shouting encouragement as his boy rounded the corner on to Grand Avenue. Unable to keep up, he pounded to a stop, raised his hand in the air, then made a fist, the downward momentum of which spun him around. He was panting and laughing.
I couldn’t see where the race ended from my apartment, but I doubt a big deal was made of Billy crossing the finish line. I also can’t imagine that it mattered to him or his dad.
Oscar the Cat
I'll be offline for about 10 days, so
here's wishing you cool breezes.