John Stephen Akhwari

As a big sports fan, I enjoyed watching the 2012 London Olympics.

I love the superstars of the Olympics and have fond memories of watching the original Dream Team, Cathy Freeman, Carl Lewis and other greats strut their stuff on the big stage and to see a new generation of stars was exciting and inspiring.

I also love the stories behind the scenes of those who never won a medal, but competed with pride, courage and to the best of their abilities, giving us all someone not only to cheer for, but to be inspired by.

One of those people is John Stephen Akhwari.

He was a Tanzanian marathon runner competing in the 1968 Mexico City Olympic Games.

Not used to running at such a high altitude, Akhwari soon started to cramp, but things really went wrong at the 19km mark of the 42km race, when he collided with another runner and fell, injuring himself badly.

He badly cut and dislocated his knee and also hurt his shoulder when he hit the ground.

Undaunted, he continued running and despite finishing well over an hour behind the eventual winner, he entered the arena and completed his final lap to a standing ovation from the few thousand spectators who had waited for his appearance.

What an extraordinary effort!

When asked why he kept running, he simply responded, “My country did not send me 10,000 miles just to start the race; they sent me to finish the race.”

As I read this story, I’m reminded of all of the obstacles that are placed in front of us in life.

Criticisms, knock-backs, periods of ill-health, disappointments, unanswered prayers and what we perceive as bad luck.

But we’re not to be defined by what happens to us, we’re to be defined by our response to these events.

We can roll over and give up, or like John Stephen Akhwari, we can grit our teeth, push through the pain and step by step move closer to the finish line, achieving something remarkable and inspiring others in the process.

What story from the history of the Olympics inspires you the most?

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