The first two Olympic Moments I remember were Bob Beamon’s long jump at the Mexico City Olympics and Lasse Viren’s 10K run at the Munich Olympics. Beamon excelled so far beyond the world record (8.90 M) that it seemed unbelievable, as though, for a moment, he had defied gravity. It would take 23 years before his record was matched. Viren had fallen earlier in the race and lost touch with the lead group. He quickly picked himself up, rejoined the group at the front led by Bedford and went ahead to win the race with a sensational time. His win seemed to defy the rules of plausibility.
The Beijing Olympic Moment was the 4X100 relay with Jason Lezak, who came from behind the French, Alain Bernad, the World and Olympic champion to win the race for the American team and give Michael Phelps that Gold as one of his eight.
What makes an Olympic moment? Why was Viren’s 10K a source of inspiration for so many? What is it about Lezak’s finish of the 4X100 freestyle, and about Phelps’ finish of the Men’s 100M Butterfly and his Eight Gold medals in Beijing that will inspire youngsters for generations?
Olympic moments are about much more than victory. More than a peak performance. Olympic Moments redefine our perception of reality and of what is possible. They instruct us about the human capacity to transcend limitations. To defy the rules. To even defy the laws of gravity.
Why are these moments formative into the collective human story? We love the drama. We love heroes. But there is something else. Olympic Moments of physical and athletic greatness let us intuit that which is beyond – the greater, transcended nature of life. They offer us a glimpse into a ‘perfect’ and ‘supreme’ realm. They confirm a latent knowing that beyond our physicality there is something unbeatable, eternal. Olympic Moments show us that at the edge of the human capacity, where the improbable and the impossible are suspended for a short moment, life can be touched by the miraculous. That on a special occasion, with hard work, training, sweat and tears you may be helped by something greater. That you may also be sustained and delivered beyond, to reach the unattainable and unimaginable, and touch the immortal essence of life.
Once you find this moment in the Olympics, you may find it again nearby, in simple things. Perhaps even inside you.
© Aviv Shahar