Derek Redmond: The day that changed my life

Derek Redmond: The day that changed my life

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UPDATED:

21:30 GMT, 27 July 2012

The former British 400m record-holder, now 46, was at his peak when he lined up for the 400m semi-final in Barcelona in 1992. Here he relives the day that ended his career but made him an inspiration to millions.

When I took my place on the starting blocks I felt good.

For once I had no injuries, despite eight operations in four years, and I’d won the first two rounds without breaking sweat – including posting the fastest time in the first round heats. I was confident and when the gun went off I got off to a good start.

Derek Redmond was helped towards the finish line by his father Jim

Derek Redmond was helped towards the finish line by his father Jim

‘I got into my stride running round the first turn and I was feeling comfortable. Then I heard a popping sound. I kept on running for another two or three strides then I felt the pain. I thought I’d been shot, but then I recognised the agony.

‘I’d
pulled my hamstring before and the pain is excruciating: like someone
shoving a hot knife into the back of your knee and twisting it. I
grabbed the back of my leg, uttered a few expletives and hit the deck.

I
couldn’t believe this was happening after all the training I’d put in. I
looked around to see where the rest of the field were, and they had
only 100m to go. I remember thinking if I got up I could still catch
them and qualify.

‘The
pain was intense. I hobbled about 50m until I was at the 200m mark.
Then I realised it was all over. I looked round and saw that everyone
else had crossed the finishing line. But I don’t like to give up at
anything – not even an argument, as my wife will tell you – and I
decided I was going to finish that race if it was the last race I ever
did.

‘All these doctors and officials were coming onto the track, trying to get me to stop but I was having none of it. Then, with about 100m to go, I became aware of someone else on the track. I didn’t realise it was my dad, Jim, at first. He said, “Derek, it’s me, you don’t need to do this.”

'I just said, “Dad, I want to finish, get me back in the semi-final.” He said, “OK. We started this thing together and now we’ll finish it together.” He managed to get me to stop trying to run and just walk and he kept repeating, “You’re a champion, you’ve got nothing to prove.”

Today
I don’t feel anger, just frustration. The footage has since been used
in adverts by Visa, Nike and the International Olympic Committee – I
don’t go out of my way to watch it, but it isn’t painful any more

‘We hobbled over the finishing line with our arms round each other, just me and my dad, the man I’m really close to, who’s supported my athletics career since I was seven years old. I’ve since been told there was a standing ovation by the 65,000 crowd, but nothing registered at the time. I was in tears and went off to the medical room to be looked at, then I took the bus back to the Olympic village.

My dream was over. In Seoul four years earlier I didn’t even get to the start line because of an Achilles injury and had “DNS” – Did Not Start – next to my name. I didn’t want them to write “DNF” – Did Not Finish – in Barcelona.

‘When I saw my doctor he told me I’d never represent my country again. I felt like there’d been a death. I never raced again and I was angry for two years. Then one day I just thought: there are worse things than pulling a muscle in a race, and I just decided to get on with my life.

Today I don’t feel anger, just frustration. The footage has since been used in adverts by Visa, Nike and the International Olympic Committee – I don’t go out of my way to watch it, but it isn’t painful any more and I have the Visa ad on my iPad.

‘If I hadn’t pulled a hamstring that day I could have been an Olympic medallist, but I love the life I have now. I might not have been a motivational speaker or competed for my country at basketball, as I went on to do. And my dad wouldn’t have been asked to carry the Olympic torch this year, which was a huge honour for him.


Visit www.derekredmond.com for more about Derek’s motivational speaking.