I sat down this afternoon excited to watch the Men’s 4×100 meter final at the Olympics today. Canada had a team in the final that qualified 3rd. I wasn’t expecting a gold or a silver because it was a forgone conclusion the Usain Bolt led Jamaicans and Justin Gatlin led Americans would take down those positions. However I did have some hope our team had a legitimate chance to win a bronze medal after seeing them qualify with the 3rd fastest time. The race started and we were jumping up and down, as the guys rounded the track. It came to the final leg and it was a 3-way race to the finish line for the bronze. Seeing our Canadian anchor runner out lean the other 2 runners at the line I let out an excited, “YEAH” and threw up my arms in celebration of our relay team.
We saw our new heroes wrapping themselves in Canadian flags and hugging close family and friends after they posted their the result in the stadium. You could feel the excitement and pride in Canada oozing from the Canadian television coverage. It was only our second medal in Track and Field at these Olympics and they were going to cover every emotional moment of it. I was captivated and my young children were captivated in watching their Dad beam with pride in this moment. I showed them Canadian Flags, explained the difference of a blanket and a Canada flag to my 19 month old, and answered my 3 year-olds question about why they were hugging each other.
Then… The world of our athletes and their millions of new fans came crashing to a halt. It was announced at the stadium and on tv that our new heroes had been disqualified from the race for an infraction. They had no idea what happened. We had no idea. Tears were flowing on their faces and disbelief was setting in. How could this be? I watched the replay and couldn’t spot anything and the announcers couldn’t spot anything. Canadian television then showed Jared Connaughton pointing at himself. I still hadn’t seen it yet, but he did on the first replay of the race. His left foot stepped on the edge of the lane for a brief moment and that was it. He knew before anyone else. The bronze medal was going to go to Trinidad and Tobago and a disappointing end to 4 years of hard work with his 3 teammates had come up short. The medal was gone. He stood up and faced the Canadian public. Here is the “Jared Connaughton Interview after Canada’s 4x100m Disqualification” moments after finding out about the disqualification. I encourage you to click on the link above to watch it you haven’t seen it.
He owned his misstep and didn’t find fault in the rule or anyone else other than himself. Jared was humble and focussed on the hard work, amazing season, and quality of the performance his teammates and him put in. Here he is in the most disappointing moment of his athletic career yet he stood there answering questions and making no excuses. I’m sure he will look back at the race and wish he didn’t step on the line, but that cannot be said for how he conducted himself after. He was pure class!! He looked at the glass half full rather than half empty. What an awesome example he set for young and old alike! Below is the tweet he sent to the world after the moment passed. As a new fan of his it was not something I needed to see because I knew it was an honest mistake. It shows he understands the importance of the moment in Canada and the value he places on connecting himself personally with friends, family, and fans across the world.
A true test of the character of a person is not how they conduct themselves when things are going well but how well they conduct themselves when they face adversity. This moment will stand with me for a long time. I added Jared’s interview to my youtube favourites list and plan to show it to my students when a teachable moment is needed or when I need a bit of personal inspiration when I face adversity myself. As a teacher I strive to handle myself in the same manner he does and model his same qualities.
I am proud of Jared and the millions of others in our world who handle adversity with grace and dignity in the most difficult moments personally. What lesson or lessons do you take from Jared or the London 2012 Olympics? I look forward to reading about it.
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