The 1976 Summer Olympic Games in Montreal, Canada was host to one of the greatest acts of courage in Olympic history. The Japanese team arrived with high hopes for Olympic gold. They knew however that in order to achieve this lofty goal they would have to win out over the incredibly strong Russian team.
As competition began Shun Fujimoto, a member of that Japanese team, found himself up against unthinkable decision. During his floor exercise, he’d broken his leg. He now had to choose whether he would continue, working to help his teammates succeed, or, give up and hope for the best. Obviously having had this kind of injury no one would question his lack of desire to move on.
But,he did move on. He reasoned that his teammates would need every point he could contribute. So, without telling anyone, the judges, his teamates, or even his coach, Shun moved on to the next apparatus; the pommel horse. He did well in this event, scoring a 9.5 out of a maximum 10 points. As difficult and daunting as this task was he knew that it would pale in comparison to what lie ahead.
The apparatus that followed was the rings. Shun knew that success in this event would be largely dictated by his ability to successfully complete the high-flying dismount. The level of concentration this challenge would require would be an entirely different matter altogether. But, true to form and thinking of the success of the team he assumed his position and began his routine.
Shun flew around the rings in near perfection. His performance was almost flawless. But as he moved through his routine he knew that in order to get the score required he would have to nail his dismount, a triple somersault with a twist.
Tears filled his eyes as Shun’s leg absorbed the force from his 136 pound body hitting the mat. His leg gave way just a bit, and gritting his teeth he threw his arms in the air.
He tore ligaments in his leg, dislocated his knee and had to withdraw from the rest of the events, but, in the end, the judges awarded him a 9.7, the highest score of his career. The Japanese team was awarded the gold and they beat the Russians by .4 points (the smallest margin of victory in the history of the Olympics). Everyone on the team knew that without Shun’s courage this victory would never have been achieved.
Later, reporters asked Shun about his experience. He replied;
“It brought tears to my eyes. But now I have a gold medal, and the pain is gone.”
In our lives there are surely times when we have to pull together all the courage that we can muster, and move forward. Often, we feel injured, or less than a whole, and many times are “teams” success relies on our ability to complete the tasks that are ours.
We will do better and more easily find the wherewithal to succeed if we will remember Shun’s words and example. For, no matter how difficult our struggle is today as we work towards our goals with dedication and resolve, then someday like Shun we may be able to say;
“[The adversities in my life] brought tears to my eyes. But, now I have [reached my goals] and the pain is gone.”
Below you can find a short video on Shun