Introduction of the Poem
‘Nine Gold Medals’, written by the American Rock vocalist David Roth, is a song that inspires human compassion and cooperation. The poem is based on a story about the nine differently-abled athletes in a Special Olympic event. In a race, when one runner fell to the ground, all the others stopped and returned back to help him stand on his feet and then they walked hand-in-hand to finish the race. Each of the athletes was awarded a gold medal in recognition of their outstanding show of empathy and compassion.
Variations of the song are available on the internet. But the version sung by the Scottish singer Iain MacKintosh in 1996 is included in the ICSE board collection ‘Treasure Trove’. Though MacKintosh mentioned as a ‘true story’ in his introduction, an online report claims it to be partly true. According to the folks at the Special Olympics Washington office, the incident happened at a 1976 track-and-field event held in Spokane, Washington. A contestant did take a tumble, and one or two of the other athletes turned back to help the fallen one, culminating in their crossing the finish line together, but it was only one or two, not everyone in the event. The others continued to run their race.
However, beyond the authenticity of the incident, the poem ‘Nine Gold Medals’ conveys a great message to the humanity that the world now needs no more competition, but more cooperation and collaboration. This is very much relevant in our times when people forget to help one another in an unhealthy rat-race in every aspect of life.
Summary of the Poem
‘Nine Gold Medals’ is a poem that beautifully illustrates the team spirit among nine athletes. Athletes from all over the country assembled to put their running skills to test after intense training. All the participants were ready to lay their hands on the gold, silver and bronze medals.
Spectators thronged the field to cheer the participants. The participants’ names were announced through the loudspeakers and the pistol was fired. All the participants started running. Suddenly, the youngest participant stumbled and fell with his knees on the ground. He cried in anguish as his dreams came crashing down.
As the spectators looked on, the other eight athletes stopped running and came to the young man one by one. Together, they helped the young man get up on his feet. They joined hands and walked towards the finishing post. The one hundred meters race had turned into a walk. Yet, when they reached the finishing post, there were nine happy faces. The poet says their act of helpfulness towards their competitor actually won them nine gold medals.
The poem ‘Nine Gold Medals’ is written by the famous poet “David Roth” he describes it in about the athletes and a race between nine athletes for the winning of Gold medal. As the game starts all the people seeing them start cheering them and athletes start their race. The name of all of them was announced in the speaker briefly. Everyone was trying to pass the other, but in between the game on of the athletes fell down due to loss of balance. When other athletes saw this they all stopped and supported him for getting up. After that everyone starts walking together instead of running as the result of which there which, all the 9 athletes came out as winners. Their faces were like the 9 gold medals even when they don’t get any.
Critical Appreciation of the Poem
Special Olympics for the otherwise challenged sportsmen has a hundred yard race event. Special Olympics help instill a sense of self-confidence and other skills. It’s organizers hold Special Olympic World Games every two years and also provide round the year training to the persons with intellectual debilities.
The athletes participating in the 100 yard race have displayed human feelings, ‘camaraderie’, friendliness, compassion and team-work. They have empathized with one of their follow runners, who stumbles, staggers and fell down. They stumble their run, come back to him, lift him up and joining hands, cross the finishing line together. This act of courage, empathy and human feelings has truly made the Special Olympics a special one.
“The athletes had come from so many countries
To run for the gold and the silver and bronze
Many weeks and months in training
All building up to the games”
Athletes have come from many countries all over the world to take part in Special Olympics. They were there to compete for medals – gold, silver and bronze. They have gone through strenuous training for months to participate in the events with high hopes and dreams of winning medals. The athletes being ‘specially-abled’ in nature had to endure more trouble than the normal athletes.
It is understood that these people had to overcome their physical inabilities as well as their psychological limitations to motivate themselves to compete just like any normal human being. It shows the strength of their character. They had to first accept that they can also overcome challenges like anyone and that they were no inferior to anybody. The ‘training’ denotes the mental as well as physical training of these young aspirants who had some serious limitations with them.
“All round the field spectators were gathered
Cheering on all the young women and men
Then the final event of the day was approaching
The last race about to begin”
A large audience was present at the ground to cheer the participants of different events. They cheered and enjoyed throughout the day. Now it was time for the final event of the day – the one hundred meter race. People were eagerly waiting for the event to begin. The day was a little different to the audience as the participants were specially-abled youngsters who overcame all the obstacles of life to participate in such a big event. They felt like encouraging them for achieving the great feat of ‘participating’ in the mega event. The above lines showcase the enthusiasm of the spectators and that they were thrilled to experience such turn of events which might have been beyond their imagination.
“The loudspeakers called out the names of the runners
The one hundred meters the race to be run
And nine young athletes stood there determined
And poised for the sound of the gun”
The names of the runners who would take part in the hundred-meter race were announced in the loud speakers. There were nine participants for the final show of the day. All nine participants were determined to win the competition which was quite visible in their eyes and face. All of them took their positions behind the starting point. This was a palpable moment for the runners as well as the spectators. All were visibly tensed. They were all ready to start, and were waiting for the sound of the gun. These lines, bring about a pen-picture of the mega event, and tries to take the readers to the place of the event in their mind and imagination.
“The signal was given, the pistol exploded
And so did the runners on hearing the sound
But the youngest among them stumbled and staggered
And he fell on his knees to the ground”
The firing of the pistol marked the start of the race. The all awaited race of the race had finally begun. All the runners charged ahead along their respective tracks. But suddenly, there occurred an unexpected thing which brought the entire stadium (the place where the event was taking place) into a standstill. The youngest of all the athletes stumbled and staggered, and fell on his knees to the ground, the asphalt track. The atmosphere of the place was already palpable in nature but, this incident took the people to the boil. The poet has successfully created a moment of knee-jerking, breathless suspense and has been able to take the readers to their wits best.
“He gave out a cry of frustration and anguish
His dreams and his efforts dashed in the dirt
But as sure as I’m standing here telling the story
Now it’s a strange one, but here’s what occurred”
The young contestant who fell to the ground came out with a cry of agony, pain and frustration for he knew that all his hopes had gone down the drains. Nothing could be more frustrating for a differently abled athlete after such tough training. The moment he fell, he knew all his dreams, hopes and efforts were dusted. His pain and disappointment made him to give out a cry. The cry was not a normal everyday rejection here, but something, which was telling how a person feels when his hopes area dashed and he knows that his limitations might make him to have a second chance.
But it did not end here. There occurred something really strange following his fall. Once again in an extreme display of skill and craftiness, the poet has been able to create a moment of breathless suspense. The readers are choked and glued to the poem just to know what followed and what the outcome had been. The genius of the poet lies here in taking the readers minute attention twice in a row.
“The eight other athletes stopped in their tracks
The ones who had trained for so long to compete
One by one they turned round and come back to help him
And lifted the lad to his feet”
The above lines speak of a very unnatural event that followed and that which won the hearts of all the people concerned with the event, may that be the spectators or the readers who came to learn the chronicle of events through the poem. In a peculiar turn of the events all the eight other runners of the event who were ahead of him, stopped in their tracks. Though they had trained hard for so long to compete with one another and win medals, the fall of one athlete changed their minds.
One by one all of them now returned and helped the child who had fallen to stand up on his feet. The situation changed in a flick of a second form a competitive one of day-to-day to one of wholesome feeling of unity and compassion. The crowd was spellbound. It never imagined such behaviour for they have not had practiced such in their lives nor did they see such fellow feelings in their entire life. This was a moment which was worth living. It moved them. It must have brought tears of joy in their eyes. This was one very precious moment in their lives when something happened which was truly unimaginable and indescribable.
“Then all nine runners joined hands and continued
The one hundred meters reduced to a walk
And the banner above that said “Special Olympics”
Could not have been nearer the mark”
Surprises were still in store to come. All the nine athletes joined hands after the fallen one stood on his feet, and walked to the finishing line together, hand-in-hand. The hundred meters race was reduced to a walk. None of the athletes were running anymore. They had taken the resolve to walk down the aisle all together in a mark of solidarity. The stealthy silence broke out into a standing ovation for all the champions as they had not tried to win a competition but they won the hearts of the people. They have gifted us with a moment which all would cherish in times to come as it goes down the annals of history. In fact, they had created history and had presented the spectators of witnessing history with their own eyes. The little ones have made all learn a lesson which remained to be learnt with all the education. It was so special for the great display of human compassion, cooperation and sportsman spirit. It could not have been more special in any other way.
“That’s how the race ended, with nine gold medals
They came to the finish line holding hands still”
The race created history and took its place in the pages of history. It ended with nine athletes holding their hands right to the finishing mark. They won nine gold medals – one for each – very deservingly. The poet has tried to make the readers understand that it was not that the nine gold medals mattered as by ‘Nine Gold Medals’ he has tried to portray that all the participants were the real hero and they were the gems. So, the real life nine gold medals which the world at large discovered were the nine little specially-abled children who proved to be genuinely exceptional in character.
“And the banner above and nine smiling faces
Said more than these words ever will
So much more than these words ever will”
The nine sports stood in smiling faces under the banner that declared it as a ‘Special Olympics’. Those smiling faces touched the heart of everyone present there. It delivered something special – a great feeling and a great lesson – this mere poem is not enough to express. It was beyond words.