Nine Gold Medals by David Lee Roth

The athletes had come from so many the countries
To run for the gold and the silver and bronze
Many weeks and months in training
All building up to the games

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

The loudspeakers called out the names of the runners
The one hundred metres the race to be run
And nine young athletes stood there determined
And poised for the sound of the gun

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

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 eight other athletes stopped in their tracks
The ones who had trained for so long to compete
One by one they turned round and came back to help him
And lifted the lad to his feet

Then all nine runners joined hands and continued
The one hundred metres reduced to a walk
And the banner above that said “Special Olympics”
Could not have been nearer the mark

That’s how the race ended, nine gold medals
They came to the finish line holding hands still
And the banner above and nine smiling faces
Said more than these words ever will
Said more than these words ever will

Summary

Of all the events in Olympics, the hundred-metre race is the most prestigious. The athlete, who wins it, is remembered as the fastest man in the world. So, for Special Olympics mentioned in the poem this is the final event, hence the most prestigious. The hundred-yard race is about to begin. Everyone hopes to win a medal. The spectators are as excited as the contestants. They cheer and encourage the contestants. The athletes take position at the starting blocks. They begin to run immediately after the starting pistol is fired. However, one of them is unable to run and falls on the track. He cries out with the pain of disappointment. He has trained hard but does not get the opportunity to show his talent. All his dreams of winning the medal are broken and destroyed.

When the remaining eight contestants see him fall, they, instead of continuing the race, come to the help of their fellow contestant. All the athletes have dreamt of winning the medal. However, they readily forget their dream and come forward to help the boy to his feet. Then, all the nine contestants walk hand-in-hand to the finish line. The audience is so moved by the exemplary behaviour of the contestants that it stands up and clap in admiration and awe. There are now nine winners, instead of one, and each has been given a gold medal. All the contestants display empathy turning the Special Olympics into a really ‘special’ one. By awarding gold medals to all nine contestants, the authorities honour their display of empathy, helpful nature and human values.

Analysis

The poem “Nine Gold Medals”, written by the American poet David Lee Roth, consists of 8 stanzas, each containing 4 lines. The poet has employed the unrhymed free verse form for this poetic piece. This is in sync with the form and structure of poetry written these days.

The setting or the scene of this poem is that of ‘Special Olympics’. In these Olympics, differently-abled persons, who have some problem/s in a particular part of the body, participate in various sports events. The contestants put in a lot of preparation and practice.

Olympics and Paralympics are held once every four years. Athletes from all over the world train hard to participate in this event. Winning a medal in these games is the ultimate goal of every athlete of the world. In this poem, which is aptly titled ‘Nine Gold Medals’, the poet tells us that success at such top levels of sports competition is not all about winning medals only. Instead, it’s more about the display of humanitarian spirit and the fundamental human values of empathy, love, compassion and cooperation. Commitment to these values is the hallmark of true sportsmanship. The poem brilliantly presents the idea of empathy and through the event described here, tries to reinforce the significance of human values suggesting how they are as important as the spirit of competition.

The poem presents the situation of a race, where the contestants leave aside their desire to win the medal to help a smaller and weaker contestant. They all go hand-in-hand to the finishing line. The message conveyed by this poem is loud and clear. In order to enhance the quality of our life we need to develop empathy. Empathy is essentially a person’s capacity to understand another person’s experience from his/her point of view. It can also be regarded as the ability to understand and accept others who are different from us. It helps us to appreciate what the other person is going through and to offer emotional support at the time of need. Empathy works wonders when applied to relationships – our family, our friends or colleagues. It encourages positive behaviour towards people who are in need. Not only does empathy help us to resolve conflicts but it also enables us to find solutions to problems. In the process we end up making decisions to benefit us without hurting others.

In a nutshell, empathy can be considered to be one’s ability to ‘put oneself in another’s shoes’. That is exactly what the eight contestants have done. One look at the fallen contestant has forced them to think ‘what would I have felt if I had fallen?’ and they know exactly what they have to do. The poem also shows that empathetic behaviour is applauded by all.

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