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Akhwari - Olympic Hero without a Medal 
    2008-01-14 17:26:45     CRIENGLISH.com

                                                

                                                                           (Photo Source: crienglish.com)

Most of the time, "Olympic heroes" only refer to those who have won medals in fierce competitions. But Tanzanian marathon runner John Stephen Akhwari, who lost the race in the 1968 Mexico City Olympics, is still a hero in the hearts of millions. Early this month, he was in Beijing for a very special visit.
Let's follow our reporter Xiaoyu to find out the stories of the "Olympic Hero".

                                                                 

                                            

                                                                        (Photo Source: crienglish.com)

On the day of his arrival, he was attracted to a song called "the Hero," broadcast on a restaurant TV.
The song was composed by famous Chinese musician You Hongming, and the documentary accompanying the song struck Ahkwari as a tribute to his own experience long ago.

Watching his own silhouette running on the screen, Akhwari, the Olympic hero, was deeply touched, and his eyes soon glistened with tears.
"I'm very happy that they composed the song, and they made my story known in China and all over the world, and let people know that I am a hero."

Akhwari's story occurred forty years ago, when he attended the Mexico City Olympics at the age of 30.

Not long after the start of the marathon at the Mexico Olympics, Akhwari fell down and was badly injured, because he was not used to the climate of Central America. The other runners passed him one after another, and his chance of winning a medal became extremely slim. However, he didn't quit, and insisted on finishing the race.

When Akhwari limped into the stadium on bloody and bandaged legs an hour after the winner of the race had left, there were only a few spectators remaining in the stands. They were shocked to see Akhwari wincing with pain at every step toward the finish line, and they felt grateful to witness such a touching moment.

When asked why he didn't retire from the race, Akhwari's answer is calm and simple.

"My country didn't send me to start the race, they sent me to finish it!"

Akhwari was immortalized in the Mexico Olympics documentary film by director Bud Greenspan, as the last man to finish the marathon for 4 and a half hours.

However, due to restrictions on mass media's development, few people heard his story. Akhwari, the symbol of Olympic spirit, didn't win wide recognition as a hero at the time.

Back in Tanzania, Akhwari's life returned to normal. Facing his friends' questions over the outcome of the race, Akhwari replied calmly. He never considered his failure to win a medal a cause for shame.

On the contrary, all his family members are very proud of him for finishing the race. He did what his parents once taught him: "If you start doing something, finish it. Otherwise, never start it."

In the following years, Akhwari devoted his heart and soul to track and field. When he retired from running, Akhwari decided to become a coach. People can often see him running with his players, who share his passion and love for the sport.

Many years later, when people had almost forgotten Ahkwari's experience in Mexico City, a call from Beijing broke his tranquility. Ahkwari set out for Beijing to meet a Chinese musician that he had never met before.

You Hongming had learned of Ahkwari's story from Bud Greenspan's documentary. Inspired by Akhwari's spirit, You Hongming and the co-composer Wang Pingjiu composed a song named "The Hero" for the upcoming Beijing Olympic Games.

Senior media figure Yang Lan was attracted to the song, and decided to offer financial support to shoot the music video for "The Hero." With the help of the Tanzanian embassy, Akhwari, the real hero of the music video, was tracked down and invited to Beijing.

Akhwari joined the shooting team at the track-and-field arena of Beijing Forestry University in a cold winter afternoon in Beijing. He insisted wearing the thin sports suit during the whole shooting. In the MV, he's doing what he does - to coach young runners and enjoy the hard but happy time with them. At the end of the shooting, he was running with them on the track, spreading his Olympic spirit to the whole arena.

The composer and singer You Hongming thinks that the song is more than just homage to Akhwari's spirit C it's a celebration of humanity.

"Akhwari's spirit of perseverance not only shines in the arena of track and field, but also in all aspects of our lives. Every one of us must endure a lifelong race. No matter what happens in between, we have no reason to give up. As long as we strive until the end, we will be the heroes of ourselves .That's the message the video tries to send out."

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