Location: Arena Olímpica do Rio
Gymnastics Horizontal Bars
Some Olympic athletes know they achieved gold as soon as they have finished their performance. The best example is the 100m sprint in athletics; crossing the line and the hands go up; gold! Then there are disciplines where you have finished but need to wait for others. They still have a chance to beat you. In the long jump for example that is the case. And then you have a third category; the sports where a jury decides on the scores. In gymnastics that is true for all disciplines.
So, imagine Fabian Hambüchen in Rio 2016. He had finished his exercise on the horizontal bars. But had to wait, on the side-line. What was going through his mind?
He was at this fourth and final Olympics. In Athens 2004 he was the youngest gymnast and he finished 7th at the horizontal bars. His favourite discipline. In Beijing four years later, he fell and became, again, 7th. In between he was on top of his game and became world champion. But he was aiming for more. So he raised the (horizontal) bar once more. The third opportunity came in London. He did well but was out beaten by a magical Epke Zonderland, the Flying Dutchman. Fabian is and was at that event a true sportsman; congratulating Epke with his fabulous win. In sports they were competitors but in life friends. So, when he came to Rio, he knew it would be his final Olympics. A final shot at his dream; Olympic gold.
In the final in Rio, Fabian had to start the competition. The first out of the 8 contestants. He did a solid performance and the jury confirmed that with a score of 15.766. He was very happy. But all others still had to go. Nerve wrecking. Maybe even more difficult then doing the exercise. Hambüchen and his coach had to wait on the side-line. His biggest rival Epke Zonderland started, only to fall off the bars to the astonishment of the crowds. His friend lay on the floor and he felt sorry for him. At the same time, Epke was the biggest competitor for the gold, his gold. Would now somebody else ruin his dream? One after the other clinched to the bars, did their performance and took in the score from the jury. But no one came close.
Fabian had to wait for the last athlete, the last score of the jury. The tension of four Olympic Games had built up to this moment. He had won all possible medals, except gold on the bars. When the final score got announced Hambüchen, the cool and controlled guy from Germany, transformed in a cheering 12-year-old. He just realized that finally his dream came true!
Fabian retired directly after the Games. With an important lesson, persistence can get you anywhere. Never stop believing!