The most incredible Olympic story in history

Derek Redmond was a top-tier British sprinter during the 80s and 90s. He broke the British 400m record twice and was part of the British 4×400 meter relay team that won gold at the 1991 World Championship.

But Redmond is best remembered not for a race he finished as winner, rather, he’s a fixture of Olympic lore for a race he didn’t finish at all. At least not officially.

The Olympian entered the 1992 Barcelona Olympics as one of the favorites for gold in the 400 meter. And he qualified for the 400m semifinal with the fastest time in his heat.

As backstory, it’s worth mentioning Redmond had missed out on the 1985 Commonwealth Games with injury. He also couldn’t compete in the 1988 Seoul Olympics, hobbled by tendinitis. So, the ‘92 Games were all the more significant for the sprinter.

“I was feeling absolutely 100% before the race. I’d had two really good rounds without even trying and the night before the semi-final I’d talked with my father and my coach and we’d decided I was going to push a bit harder and try to get a good lane for the final.”

Derek Redmond via The Guardian

Redmond exploded out of the blocks. Everything was going well. But shortly after rounding the first turn, he felt something pop. He fell to the track, grasping at his leg.

“I said to myself: ‘There’s no way I’m going to be stretchered out of these Olympics.’ I didn’t know where I was. I really, really believed I could still qualify.”

Derek Redmond via The Guardian

He couldn’t. His hamstring was badly torn. His body was incapable of of running another step. Still, he attempted to hobble to the finish line. His father, seeing his son’s tribulation from the stand, evaded security and bolted onto the track. Redmond, his arm draped over his father’s shoulder, limped along in agony all the way to the finish line, creating one of the iconic portraits of athletic perseverance in sporting history.

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11 surgeries and two years later, Redmond’s career was officially over. He now works as a professional speaker, with plenty of material about the power of family and human spirit at his disposal.

Derek handled adversity with class, but not everyone is so classy – check out these sports heroes who used their time in the spotlight for evil: