Sports Non-Fiction posted January 29, 2016

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An unexpected meeting...

True Spirit of the Games

by teols2016

The time of my life: Contest Winner 
It was 2008. I was twenty, competing for the United States in the Paralympic Games in Beijing, China. I'd qualified for five events as an S11 completely blind swimmer. I swam all of my races in the Water Cube, the same facility where Michael Phelps had recently made history by earning eight gold medals in a single Olympic Games, more than anyone else...ever.

One of my events was the one hundred meter butterfly. I'd swum that morning, coming in seventh place overall and making it back for finals that night.

On my way to lunch in the Olympic Village, the same Olympic Village occupied by able-bodied Olympians just two weeks before, I received a phone call. Though he wasn't traveling with me, my college coach had come and watched my races. He called to congratulate me on my success that day. I'd been walking with one of the U.S. National Team coaches, who politely helped me step out of the way of the foot traffic and waited for me to finish my call. I tucked my white cane under my arm and briefly spoke with my home coach about the race and what I needed to do that night at the finals.

When the call was completed, I proceeded to pocket my phone. I'd forgotten that my cane was under my arm and gravity quickly reminded me as it hit the concrete path with a clatter.

As I bent down to feel for the cane, and before my coach even had a chance to help, someone said "Wait. I will get it."

A man in a wheelchair came over, picked up my cane, and returned it to me. He had a slight accent but I wasn't sure what it was.

His English was very good and he engaged me and my coach in conversation, asking what sport we were involved in. Telling him about my swimming, I asked what he was competing in.

"I play wheelchair volleyball for Iraq," he told me.

He proceeded to say that his team had just come back from a practice session and that they had a game scheduled for the following afternoon.

It was tradition among athletes and coaches at the Games to exchange lapel pins from our home countries. I already had a steadily growing collection, including pins from Cyprus, Germany, Panama, and New Zealand. I was interested in adding Iraq to my lineup and he wanted a pin from the United States.

He proceeded to trade with me and my coach, who had her own sack of U.S. pins. The United States, like a number of other countries, manufactured more than one type of lapel pin for the occasion, so the Iraqi volleyball player lucked out...he certainly thought so.

Once we all had our new pins, he and I shook hands, wishing each other luck in our respective competitions.

I later told another one of my coaches about the meeting. He was quite impressed. I ultimately ran out of pins to trade and he gave me a second pack that was kept in storage somewhere simply because I was actively doing what I was supposed to with them. Meeting more athletes involved in many other sports, I obtained many more pins from countries including Greece, Japan, Canada, Brazil, Australia, France, and Spain. I will admit I kept one of the United States pins as a souvenir.

Getting to represent the United States in the 2008 Paralympic Games was an unbelievable, once-in-a-lifetime experience. Meeting this gentleman from Iraq was an unbelievable, once-in-a-lifetime experience within that. We never told each other our names, but I will never forget our meeting and that pin is safe with the others.

Writing Prompt
Write a short story. The topic is: The best time you ever had in your life. It can be as an adult or as a child. Please keep it clean. Minimum length 100 words. Maximum Length 4,000 words.

The time of my life:
Contest Winner

Goes to show you what can happen when you're clumsy...

Meeting new people throughout the Olympics and Paralympics is just as important as the competitions themselves, even if the United States rocks out loud in the latter.
Pays one point and 2 member cents.

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