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David Bruce: The Kindest People: Heroes and Good Samaritans (Volume 7) (Free PDF)

  1. “I Did Not Feel Pity for Her. I Felt a Lot of Respect”

The least qualified athlete at the 2012 Olympic Games in London was also perhaps its bravest and most important hero. Although some people from her home country of Saudi Arabia called her one of the “Prostitutes of the Olympics,” Wojdan Shaherkani, age 16 and 241 pounds, became the first female athlete from Saudi Arabia to compete in any Olympic event. Competing in heavyweight judo, Ms. Shaherkani lost in approximately 90 seconds to Puerto Rico’s Melissa Mojica, who is ranked 24th in the world. Ms. Mojica knew the meaning of Ms. Shaherkani’s being able to compete in the Olympics. Ms. Mojica said, “I did not feel pity for her. I felt a lot of respect.” Ms. Shaherkani and her father, Ali, hugged after the loss. Ms. Shaherkani had been studying judo for only two years, and the Olympics were her first official competition. She said, “I was scared a lot, because of all the crowd around, and I lost because this is the first time.” Saudi Arabia did not broadcast the competition. Still, Ms. Shaherkani said, “Hopefully, this is the beginning of a new era.” Her Saudi representative, Hani Kamal Najm, said, “I feel this is a milestone we’ve achieved.” As Saudi officials had demanded, Olympic officials allowed Ms. Shaherkani to wear a modified hijab. Another Saudi woman, Sarah Attar, who was also well covered, later competed in the 800-meter run. Ms. Attar said, “It is the hugest honor to be here to represent the women of Saudi Arabia. It is an historic moment. I hope it will make a difference.” She added, “For women in Saudi Arabia, I think this can really spark something to get more involved in sports, to become more athletic. Maybe in the next Olympics, we can have a very strong team to come.” She has a Saudi father and an American mother and is a student at Pepperdine University near Los Angeles, California. Two other Islamic countries, Qatar and Brunei, brought female athletes to the Olympics for the first time. Ms. Attar’s coach, Joaquim Cruz, who was the 1984 Olympic 800-meter run champion, agreed to coach her after he heard her story. He said, “She’s a kid. She’s 19 years old and this is like going to Disneyland for the first time. Everybody else is concerned about the press, the media, what people are going to say. She’s just taking a ride.” The crowd gave her a standing ovation as she finished the race in last place. Ms. Attar’s father, Amer, said, “To see how the crowd reacted to her when she was running was very touching and very exciting.” Ms. Attar said, “I mean, seeing the support like that, it’s just an amazing experience. I was so excited to be a part of it. I really hope this can be the start of something amazing.” Mr. Cruz said, “She’s a dream come true for a lot of female athletes who dream about coming here and didn’t have that opportunity. She’s also a dream for a lot of generations to come. They can dream about that now, where they couldn’t dream about it before.”

  1. Good Deeds at the 2012 London Olympic Games

Bad people exist. When the Olympics were held in London in 2012, some bad people set up websites that sold fraudulent tickets to Olympic events. People paid good money for the tickets, and they could not attend the events because the tickets were fraudulent. Ann and Graham Smith bought fraudulent Olympic boxing tickets from one of those websites, and they traveled to London all the way from the Gold Coast in east Australia. Mrs. Smith said, “My husband’s just devastated—he was crying yesterday. When my sister called 118 for the contact number of the website we bought tickets from, they told us there was a note on the system saying it was a bogus ticketing website. The Olympics was the main reason for coming over.” Fortunately, good people also exist. A man from southwest London, who requested anonymity, gave them genuine Olympic boxing tickets. Mr. Smith said, “I’m overwhelmed by his generosity.” Mrs. Smith told the Good Samaritan, “I am so delighted that we will still have the opportunity to go to an Olympic event. I am sure that your generosity will be rewarded in life.” Here is another Olympic good deed: Chen Guanming cycled his rickshaw all the way from China to London for the Olympics Games, hoping to take part in the opening ceremony. He did not get to participate in the opening ceremony, but he did get to witness it—a Chinese person in London gave him a ticket. In addition, event company ATP Event Experts gave him tickets to witness the Olympic badminton competition.

  1. Faith, Focus, Finish”

At the 2012 Olympic Games in London, Manteo Mitchell, running for the United States in the first leg of the 4×400-meter relay, broke the fibula bone in his left leg with 200 meters left to run. Rather than stop running and lose the race, he kept on running. Mr. Mitchell had heard the “pop” when his leg broke: “I heard it and I felt it. But I figured it’s what almost any person would’ve done in that situation.” He added, “It felt like somebody literally just snapped my leg in half.” Despite the broken bone, Mr. Mitchell completed his part of the relay tied for fifth out of eight runners. If Mr. Mitchell had dropped out of this preliminary race, the Americans would have lost their chance to go on to compete for a medal. Mr. Mitchell said, “Even though track is an individual sport, you’ve got three guys depending on you, the whole world watching you. You don’t want to let anyone down.” He added, “I was doing my job. But probably at 201 meters, I heard it and I felt it.” How is it possible to run on a broken leg? Adrenaline helps, yes, but more is needed. Mr. Mitchell said, “Faith, focus, finish. Faith, focus, finish. That’s the only thing I could say to myself.” Western Carolina coach Danny Williamson had given Mr. Mitchell a scholarship and worked with him. Mr. Williamson said, “He was a team person here. As soon as he came to Western Carolina, no matter what the situation, he’d do anything we asked of him.” He added, “I don’t know how you write this, but I’d like to believe the only way he would have stopped is if the leg had fallen off.” Mr. Mitchell said, “I pretty much figured it was broken, because every step I took, it got more painful. But I was out there already. I just wanted to finish and do what I was called in to do.”

  1. For Sale: An Olympic Bronze Medal

Before attending the 2012 Olympics in London, Zofia Noceti-Klepacka of Poland announced that if she won a medal she would sell it for a worthy cause. She did win a medal: the bronze in the women’s RS-X, which involves windsurfing and a heavy sailboard. Ms. Noceti-Klepacka’s neighbor is Zuzia, a five-year-old girl with cystic fibrosis. Her constant care is expensive, and the proceeds from the sale of the bronze will go to her and her family. Ms. Noceti-Klepacka said (translated by Google from an interview with Polskie Radio), “Susan is my neighbor, I know her since birth. I’ve seen that had problems, how many times was in the hospital, she spent much time there, her mom. Everyone here is praying that Susan survived. Now maybe you can not see it, but cystic fibrosis is a fatal disease before the Games and said that I was going to London after the medal for her.”

  1. “I Don’t Need the Medal to Remember. I Know I’m the Olympic Champion. That’s in My Heart”

Some Olympic athletes have sold the gold medals they won—for good reasons. In 1996 in Atlanta, Georgia, USA, the first year that Ukraine participated in the Olympics as an independent country, Wladimir Klitschko of Ukraine won a gold medal in Boxing as a Super Heavyweight. He sold it for $1 million, all of which went to the Klitschko Brothers Foundation to help fund children’s sports camps and facilities. The anonymous man who bought the medal gave it away—to Mr. Klitschko. In 2000 in Sydney, Australia, Anthony Ervin of the United States won a gold in swimming: the 50m freestyle. In 2004, he sold the medal on eBay for $17,101, all of which he donated to help the victims of the Indian Ocean Tsunami. In 2004 in Athens, Greece, Otylia Jedrzejczak of Poland won a gold medal in swimming: the 200m butterfly. She had announced even before she qualified for the Olympics that any medals she won would be sold to benefit charity. Her gold medal raised over $80,000 for a Polish charity that helps kids with leukemia. She said, “I don’t need the medal to remember. I know I’m the Olympic champion. That’s in my heart.”


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