Sunday, August 5, 2007

Why sports? For me, it's not the records broken...

Edward Wyatt profiled the 24-year-old winner of the grueling cycling race, the Tour de France, in the July 29, 2007 New York Times. I was very impressed with what I learned about this young man.

Alberto Contador won the Tour de France bicycle race at the end of July, 2007. In 2004, in the first stage of the Tour of Asturias, his brain hemorrhaged. He had the clot removed and remained in hospital during his recovery. He had to have a titanium plate inserted in his skull to close the wound from the brain surgery. No one knew if he would ever talk and walk, let alone get on a bicycle again. Looking back on that time, he said, “I felt like my whole life and career was going to take a different direction. It taught me to value other things a lot more.”

In 2005, when he had finished 21st in the Tour de France, his Liberty Seguros team was excluded from the 2006 tour because of numerous riders on that team whose names were associated with the Puerto drug scandal. Dr. Eufemiano Fuentes had batches of many cyclists’ blood, potentially usable for self-transfusions. Contador’s name first appeared on that list, but he fought and finally got an apology; it had been included by mistake.

He wrote an open letter to his fans, from which these words were taken:
“Life has shown me that experiences that at first sight seem harmful and unpleasant to us can always result in highly positive lessons for us.

“I will continue working, possibly with even more devotion—if that’s possible—to make you experience this beautiful sport and to hear you say once again that you believe in it and in me. And because I believe in a clean sport, as I have practiced it, we will collect the result of our efforts in a few years.”

It was hard to put up with all of the drug scandals affecting Vinokurov and Rasmussen, other cyclists who had excelled in the race before their expulsion. But seeing this young man succeed in spite of all of the adversity in his life was thrilling. That, rather than seeing a new home run record set by Barry Bonds, is the kind of inspiration I seek from sports.

1 comment:

Laura L. Mays Hoopes said...

ARGH! Now Contador appears to be having more of a connection with the blood transfusion scandal than I thought. Oh, well, sportsmanship and sportswomanship may be dinosaurs. I am very sorry to see them go.