Jim Redmond: His Aid to His Son Was a Memorable Olympic Moment

From a New York Times obit by Clay Risen headlined “Jim Redmond, Whose Aid to Son Was an Olympic Moment, Dies at 81”:

Jim Redmond, who created one of the most memorable moments in Olympic history during a 400-meter men’s race at the 1992 Games when he leaped onto the track to help his injured son, Derek, make his way across the finish line, died in Northampton, Britain.

A champion sprinter from England, Derek Redmond was widely favored to win a medal at the 1992 Games in Barcelona.

He had been a member of the 1991 English men’s relay team, which overcame steep odds to take the gold at the world championships. He ran the fastest time in his 400-meter qualifying round and won the quarterfinal race in Barcelona.

He then took his place in the fifth lane for the semifinals at Olympic Stadium. Some 65,000 people were watching, including his father, who sat in one of the upper rows.

Redmond got off to a good start and, with 250 meters to go and three runners ahead of him, seemed ready to make a move to the front. Suddenly, he reached to the back of his thigh and began hopping. He had pulled his hamstring. Within seconds, he crumpled to the ground in pain.

Attendants surrounded him cautiously. He stood and began to hobble forward, intent on completing the race even though the rest of the runners had already crossed the finish line.

“It was all animal instinct,” he told The New York Times a couple of days after the race. “I kept thinking I could still catch the other runners. I didn’t want to quit.”

A film crew caught sight of his father entering the track wearing a Nike cap, blue shorts and a white T-shirt that read “Have you hugged your feet today?” An attendant tried to stop him, but he blew past him to reach his son.

“You don’t have to do this,” Derek recalled his father telling him. “You don’t have to put yourself through this.”

Derek insisted. He had to finish.

“Well, then,” Jim Redmond said, “we’re going to finish this together.”

More attendants approached. Jim waved them away.

“I don’t speak Spanish,” he told reporters a few days later, “and I wasn’t going to be stopped by anything.”

By the time they reached the finish line, the crowd was roaring. Camera crews surrounded them. And an intimate moment between a father and a son had become instant Olympic history.

Up until then, the 1992 Olympics had been criticized for its gaudy excesses — the U.S. men’s basketball “Dream Team,” relentless marketing — and persistent rumors about athletes using performance-enhancing drugs. The Redmond story helped at least somewhat rescue the Games’ image.

“It was just a question of me getting on to help him,” Jim Redmond said in 2012. “The Games had lost that sort of direction. It was all about winning, winning, winning. We changed it by showing we were taking part. We brought a different aspect to it without even planning it.”

Jim Richmond was born in Trinidad and Tobago. He moved to Britain when he was 15, part of a wave of people who arrived from the former British colonies in Britain and Asia after the country loosened its immigration rules in the 1950s.

He took a job at a packing-crate manufacturer and later worked as a driver and then a salesman for a meat-processing company. He eventually went into business on his own, in the same industry. He called his company J. Redmond & Son (though Derek never joined him).

Derek Redmond never returned to racing, but he did have a brief career in professional basketball before becoming a motivational speaker. Both he and his father were invited to be a part of the ceremonial torch relay in the run-up to the 2012 Olympics, in London.

“We had a joke about it this morning over the phone,” Jim Redmond told reporters when the two were announced for the relay team. “He said, ‘They should invite me to do it and this time I will help you.’ I said, ‘You are probably right.’”

Clay Risen is an obituaries reporter for The Times. Previously, he was a senior editor on the Politics desk and a deputy op-ed editor on the Opinion desk. He is the author, most recently, of “Bourbon: The Story of Kentucky Whiskey.”

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