Friday, September 04, 2009

John Stephen Akhwari "My country sent me to Finish the race"

1968 Summer Olympics - Mexico City
A group of die-hard spectators remained in the Olympic Stadium to see the last finishers of the Olympic marathon. More than an hour before, Mamo Wolde of Ethiopia had won the race to the exuberant cheers of onlookers. But as the crowd watched and waited for the last participants, it was getting cool and dark.

It looked as if the last runners were finished, so the remaining spectators were breaking up and leaving when they heard the sounds of sirens and police whistles coming from the marathon gate into the stadium. And as everyone watched, one last runner made his way onto the track for the last lap of the twenty-six-mile race. It as John Stephen Akhwari from Tanzania. As he ran the 400 meter circuit, people could see that his leg was bandaged and bleeding. He had fallen and injured it during the race, but he hadn't let it stop him. The people in the stadium rose and applauded until he reached the finish line.

As he hobbled away, he was asked why he had not quit, injured as he was and having no chance to winning a medal. "My country did not send me to Mexico City to start the race," he answered. "They send me to finish the race".