- 01/23/2012, 12:47AM ET
williewilliejuan said 01/23, 12:47 AM
When I think of heart-warming stories, I think of people who have overcome adversity. I think of people who have tried and failed, but keep brushing themselves off and trying again. I think of people who persevere and show us all the better parts of human nature.
That's why when I think of the most heart-warming moment in Olympic history, I think of Dan Jansen winning the 1000 meter gold medal in speed skating at the 1994 Winter Olympics in Lillehammer.
Let's start with some background:
Dan Jansen was a favorite in both the 500 and 1000m distances in the 1988 Olympics. Literally on the day of the 500m race, he was told that his sister had died of leukemia. He raced anyway, trying to win a medal in his sister's memory, but fell and lost the race. A couple of days later, he fell again in the 1000m and left Calgary empty-handed.
Four years later, Jansen arrived at the Olympics as a favorite once again. However, once again, he was unable to win a medal and had to go home empty-handed.
Two years later, Jansen failed to win a medal in the 500 and it was looking like he would never win one. But in the 1000, he finally did it, winning gold and setting a new world record.
YODA said 01/23, 02:46 AM
Nice pick. Witnessing determination pay off is satisfying. And too many of us can also relate to loss of a loved one.
My choice also stems from the '88 Games. During the Sept 24 sailing events, winds suddenly doubled in strength. In the 4.7 m class, a Singapore craft capsized, injuring both crewman and leaving them adrift, struggling for survival.
One course over, Lawrence Lemieux was on pace to medal in the Finn class (comfortably in 2nd after the midway). He swiftly decided to screw the race and put himself on a direct intercept course for the imperiled Asians.
He rescued them, managed to drag them both aboard his one man craft and completed the eventual transfer to the late-arriving emergency boats.
No other sailors in either race shifted course.
Lemieux went on to finish 22nd.
The heartwarming element is magnified by the unbelievably unexpected nature of the event. It left you wondering "Did that really just happen?"
Larry Lemieux reminded the world that winning indeed isn't everything.
In courageous and spectacular fashion, he showed that Mario (#66) is certainly not the only one worthy of the English translation: The Best.
williewilliejuan said 01/23, 09:37 PM
As mentioned in the comments, I considered selecting Lemieux for this TD. However, the more I thought about it, the more the choice depressed me rather than warming my heart. The choice depressed me because essentially Lemieux did what everyone else should have done. Olympians are supposed to represent the ideal of sportsmanship and simple sportsmanship would dictate valuing the lives of other competitors over your placement in the race.
Admittedly, no one else did what Lemieux did. Lemieux's actions were remarkable in comparison to the other sailors on the water that day, but that is more an indictment of the state of sportsmanship in the world today than anything else.
Jansen's feat was heartwarming because of its universal appeal and because his ultimate victory took years to accomplish. We've all lost people close to us and know how numbing it can be, particularly when the loss is unexpected. We all felt Jansen's heartbreak on that day and wanted him to win in his sister's memory. We all shared his heartbreak when he fell, both in 1988 and again four years later.
When Jansen ultimately succeeded at Lillehammer, his previous failures made the moment more poignant.
YODA said 01/23, 10:19 PM
A lot is said about sacrifice in sport. Much of it is hyperbole (compared to say, military sacrifices), but it's nevertheless a valid concept.
An athlete may, for example, sacrifice personal glory for the good of the team. And there are sacrifices of time (and social life) needed to rise to an elite level. (In fringe sports, compensation isn't necessarily lucrative).
Lemieux was racing in his final Olympics. He was finally nearing the pinnacle of career achievement that years of training prepared him for.
Under no moral obligation to intercede (as there are official patrol and emergency boats to respond to crisis situations), he still chose to abandon any shot at a medal.
He chose to sacrifice his own safety just in case he'd be able to help 2 strangers in need.
Yes, a "win at all costs" world of elite sport is often tainted by scandal and ego. Even Olympic ideals are shaded by jingoism, big business, and a focus on medal counts.
It's not surprising that sports fans find themselves jaded and in need of some heart-thawing.
A depressing turn of events? Not at all.
Lemieux's actions gave us life perspective and were incredibly uplifting.
williewilliejuan said 01/24, 09:44 AM
While Lemieux's sacrifice was admirable, the moment was neither big nor enduring enough to be the most heartwarming in Olympic history.
For a moment to be the "most" heartwarming, it has to be big. People have to be emotionally invested in it. Jansen's story was big news in 1988. It was one of those human interest stories that the networks love so much. By the time Jansen raced, all of America knew his story and was watching in anticipation. The country let out a collective gasp when he fell and sat with his head in his hands in his grief over failing to win for Jane.
Afterward, it was still big news. He was invited to the White House. He was awarded the Olympic Spirit Award. For four years, the expectations grew, but again he failed.
Finally, in his last race, it happened. He won. As he circled the track with his daughter in his arms, a daughter named for his sister, there wasn't a dry eye in the house. The whole country shared in his joy over finally reaching his goal. It was iconic. It was enduring. Over 15 years later, Visa featured this moment in an ad campaign voiced by Morgan Freeman.
No such enduring legacy can be found for Lemieux's act of sportsmanship.
YODA said 01/24, 06:13 PM
Whoa. Lemieux's moment was neither "big" nor "enduring" enough?
Joseph Chan and Shaw Her Siew, for starters, would fiercely disagree. The fact they are still ALIVE speaks volumes about the enduring nature the Olympic moment.
Jansen got a White House invite and a Spirit Award.
Lemieux, however, was honored with the rare De Coubertin Medal for nobility by the President of the Int'l Olympic Commitee for embodying "all that is right with the Olympic ideal".
To this day, the fact that Lemieux even attempted the rescue is inspiring to all.
It's an unforgettable display of the ultimate virtues we prize: priorities, courage, self-sacrifice.
That he actually succeeded - that he saved two lives - isn't just heartwarming; it is transcendent.
Your surprising summation is that Lemieux has no "enduring legacy".
To the people of Singapore (and many more of us), he's a genuine hero.
Your pick illustrates a sports theme of perseverance after failure.
Mine illustrates the oft-forgotten but overwhelming human capacity for true greatness and compassion.
And that's the kind of stuff that warms my heart and keeps it toasty.
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