Missteps, Failed Endeavours, and High Stakes

What do you do when you have prepared for something significant – put in the long hours over days, possibly months, and it goes away in a flash?

Worse, what if it is caused by something you couldn’t control?

It happens to all of us and happens often enough. Heck, it happened to me twice in the last two weeks.

Isaiah Jett is a 24-year-old middle-distance runner from Inglewood, California. He came second in the 800m Olympic trials held in Eugene, Oregon, back in June this year.

(Isaiah’s day wasn’t finished with that though. The poor guy had to turn in a 10-page essay right that very day. Here’s a video of him right after qualifying where he requests his Professor to give him an extension. Such a warm fella!)

This was Isaiah’s 3rd season running the 800m after switching from 400m, and everything about him since the switch was promising. During the Eugene trials, he ran his personal best, taking out the reigning world champion.

Cut to July 2021, Tokyo.

He qualified comfortably for the 800m semi-finals after the first heat and was looking good during the semi-finals.

Jewett was in third place as he rounded the final curve of the semi-final in the 800-meter race in Tokyo, positioning himself for a final sprint to qualify for the next round.

How a Runner turned a nightmare into a Great Olympic Moment, The New York Times

Right then, he tangled with a fellow runner Nijel Amos and they both tripped and fell. Other runners had to jump past the two athletes to continue with their race, and nothing untoward happened fortunately.

I am sure that moment that both the runners fell to the ground felt like aeons to them.

As soon as Isaiah realised what had happened, he did something wonderful.

Despite possibly going through a melee of emotions, he looked at his competitor and told him ‘Let’s get up and finish this race’.

It’s baffling to think of a super competitive Olympian to overlook his feelings about something that is a personal nightmare, given the stakes and the stage. Yet, he exhibited such empathy for a fellow athlete.

“At that moment, when I saw him, and the way he looked so down, it hurt me,” […] “I didn’t want to hurt, and I didn’t want him to hurt. I wanted to do something that was good, to do something that was right.”

They picked each other up and jogged the last 150m together. Nijel let Isaiah finish before him.

Amos and Isaiah after the fall

Photo Courtesy: Jae C. Hong/Associated Press

And inspiration for this dogged determination to get up after every fall can come from anywhere, even from the unlikeliest of places – Isaiah’s, self-admittedly, comes from the world of anime =)

It is a personal reminder to keep getting up after every fall, with grace. If Isaiah can do it when the stakes are that high and that visible, I don’t think I have any excuse not to.  

There’s more to the running side of the story. Amos got reinstated after an appeal, and Isaiah remained out. It was a polarising decision to say the least, and one that fans of sports will be quite accustomed to when decisions are made ‘by the book’. Regardless, there appears to be no hard feelings between the two athletes.

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