His father is there for him Injured Briton struggles to finish line on dad's arm

August 04, 1992|By Bill Glauber | Bill Glauber,Staff Writer

BARCELONA, Spain -- The son needed the father. It didn't matter that this was the 1992 Summer Olympics, that the stadium was packed, that the night was so hot and the air so thick that a haze hung over the place.

Derek Redmond was trying to run and he was crying. His Olympics should have been over, but they weren't.

He was down the back straightaway in this 400-meter semifinal last night, running for Great Britain, racing for his father and himself. And then the right hamstring cramped. Took him like a Lawrence Taylor tackle and whipped him to the ground.

"I heard the pop," he said. "I felt the tap. I went down."

Medical personnel hauling stretchers started to race toward him. His rivals kept sprinting on to the finish. He was down. Ten seconds. Twenty. Thirty.

The race was over. Wasn't it?

"I looked up, and realized I was in the Olympic semifinals," Redmond said. "I looked down the track and saw the others and said, 'I must finish the race.' "

Redmond got up. And began to run.

"Ain't no way I'm going to get on the stretcher," he said.

He took a hop with his right foot, and skipped with his left.

The crowd started to watch him now. Steve Lewis, the reigning champion from the United States, had long ago crossed the finish line first. And Lewis' U.S. teammate, Quincy Watts, was getting ready to run his heat, poised to run the second-fastest 400 in history.

But all that mattered was this kid named Redmond, suddenly everybody's hero at the Olympics.

Section by section, the cheers rained down and the fans stood up.

A hundred fifty meters to go.

"I wasn't doing it for the crowd," he said.

Redmond could hardly balance himself. He cried. And he ran.

"I wasn't going to be stopped for anything," he said.

Jim Redmond was up in the stands. The butcher machine salesman from London was in the top deck. He wore a cap that said, "Just Do It."

The father did.

Olympic security was no match for a man running to his crying child.

Jim Redmond started down exit ramps, rushed through blocked corridors, climbed over chairs and finally barged his way onto the track and went into a full sprint past a guard toward his son.

"I was not going to be stopped," Jim Redmond said. "In an emergency, you don't need an accreditation."

The father grabbed the son. Wrapped his left arm tight on the son's back. And started to carry him to the finish.

A hundred meters to go.

The crowd roaring.

"We just had an agreement, that if anything happened, he was to finish the race," the father said. "This is possibly his last Olympics. He worked every year for this."

The kid had some titles, a relay gold from the 1991 world championships, and a couple of British 400-meter championships. But he had some injuries, too. Five operations each on his right and left tendons. Ankle problems. Knee problems. Never made it to the starting line at the 1988 Games in Seoul, South Korea, forced out 90 seconds before his first heat when an Achilles' tendon buckled on him.

"If there is such a thing as a before life, then I must have been a bum, because there has been so much garbage in this one," the son said. "Why me?"

Fifty meters to go.

Officials backed off. Father and son made their way down the straightaway.

The crowd shouting through the night.

Father and son walked the last meters and crossed the finish. And the photographers encircled them and the crowd still stood and the whole thing was magic.

The runner didn't win a gold. He got disqualified because there are rules that say you can receive no aid on your way to the finish line.

But did rules matter on a night like this?

"Whether people thought I was an idiot or a hero, I was going to finish," the son said.

It's just that he needed his father to help him do it.

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