I feel like we’ve been very fortunate this week to have a lot good, inspiring stories to share with you all, so it’s only fitting that we have one last one for today. A teenage cross country runner in Australia, named Jack, stopped in the middle of a championship race to help another runner, Oliver, who doesn’t even go to his school, after Oliver had fallen down due to “a combination of dehydration, exhaustion and heatstroke.” Jack continued helping Oliver (as he continued to stumble and fall two more times), at some points physically supporting him by holding him by his arm, for the rest of the race until both runners made it across the finish line.
Now that in and of itself is a great story, but there’s more. Oliver was so touched by Jack’s selfless actions and so thankful for his assistance during the race, but he never got the chance to properly thank Jack because Jack disappeared into the crowd after the two of them completed the race. Oliver attempted to contact Jack himself but was unsuccessful, so what did he do next? He wrote a personal letter from himself to the headmaster of Ipswich Grammar School, where Jack attends school, to ensure that Jack’s efforts would be recognized.
In the letter, Oliver states how “Perhaps in the heat of the moment, [Jack] didn’t realise the impact he had had on me, but in a time when I was at my most vulnerable, he showed myself and the crowd of onlookers that sometimes, the result isn’t important – it’s about the respect and brotherhood that comes about from schoolboy sport.”
That’s certainly the type of perspective that all athletes across all sports should have. However, I hope people use Jack and Oliver not just as examples of two athletes illustrating great sportsmanship but as examples of two great people living the right way.
And for anyone interested, here’s the full letter that Oliver wrote to Jack’s headmaster:
Sent: Sunday, 8 June 2014 2:23 PM
To: The Headmaster, Ipswich Grammar
Subject: GPS Cross Country
I am writing to you to express my most humble and sincere gratitude and thanks to one of your year 12 students, in the hope that it may be passed on and his actions recognised in light of what happened between him and I at the recent GPS Cross Country Championships on June 4 (last Wednesday as I write).
As an open runner in year 12 who has represented St Jospeh’s (Terrace) at the championships for the last 5 years, I had what could probably be described as a nightmarish experience when, about 4 kilometers into the 6 kilometer race, I collapsed on the ground, due to a combination of dehydration, exhaustion and heatstroke.
I lay there for about 5 minutes (although thankfully there were coaches on hand) until a medical buggy arrived. After being cleared by the medico, and desperately wanting to finish the race, I got up and continued to complete the course. At this point, only 2 runners in the opens race had yet to pass where I had been.
Very soon, towards the bottom of what we refer to as ‘heartbreak’ hill, I was joined by a student of your school who was also competing. Realising I was in distress, he began to give me encouragement, support and I believe slowed down considerably to stay with me. This continued to the top of the hill, and right until the finish. Before I crossed the line, I fell twice more – each time, he stopped and helped me get back up and continue – at times physically supporting me, holding onto my arm.
This came to a head in the last 200 meters, when he displayed an incredible amount of selflessness and remained with me right until the finish line – evidently not concerned with finishing ahead of or faster than me.
I finished with him, and unfortunately I didn’t get the opportunity to express my thanks as he disappeared into the crowd.
All I caught at the time was his name – Jack – but I can honestly say that his actions represented the most sportsmanlike and rare example of character I have ever witnessed in a person. Finishing that race was probably one of the hardest things I have ever had to do, but I certainly would have failed without him.
After a bit of searching, I found that his name was Jack, and that GPS had been his first race of the season. The lengths I went to make contact with him were unsuccessful in the days following.
I simply want to express what a fine representative of Ipswich Grammar School that Jack was – what was probably my first ever interaction with one of your students is one which I doubt I will forget for a long, long time.
I would hope that his story is shared and that he receives the plaudits and acknowledgement he deserves, because I can’t help but feel that we would be much better off with more young men like him.
Perhaps in the heat of the moment, he didn’t realise the impact he had had on me, but in a time when I was at my most vulnerable, he showed myself and the crowd of onlookers that sometimes, the result isn’t important – it’s about the respect and brotherhood that comes about from schoolboy sport. I continue to be in awe of his actions.
I still would love to be able to thank Jack personally, but until I could do that, I simply felt compelled to retell his story to yourselves.
Thank you once again.
Oliver, Year 12, St Joseph’s
(Credit to MamaMia for providing the letter and first breaking the story.)
Photo by Paula Bronstein/Getty Images