Remembering Derek Redmond's heartbreaking and inspirational Olympics race finish with his dad

30 July 2021, 16:17

Derek Redmond was helped by his father at the 1992 Olympics
Derek Redmond was helped by his father at the 1992 Olympics. Picture: Getty

By Tom Eames

When it comes to emotional videos that are always guaranteed to make you tear up, you'd find it hard to beat the memory of Derek Redmond at the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona.

British hopeful Derek Redmond was competing in 400m semi-final, an event he was tipped to do well in that year, only for the cruellest of injuries to occur at the worst time.

Derek's desperation to finish the race while being helped by his father will always give us goosebumps, and has become a symbol of courage and positivity nearly 30 years later.

Before the 1992 Games

Redmond broke the British record for the 400 metres in 1985, and he reclaimed it from Roger Black two years later.

In 1986, he was a member of the team that won the 4x400 metres relay gold medal Championships. The following year, he was also on the team that won the 4x400 metres relay silver medal at the World Championships.

Derek Redmond with Kriss Akabusi, Roger Black and John Regis in 1991
Derek Redmond with Kriss Akabusi, Roger Black and John Regis in 1991. Picture: Getty

At the 1991 World Championships, he was also a member of the British team stunned the world by beating the Americans to claim the gold medal in the 4x400 metres relay.

By the 1992 Summer Olympics, he had fought several injuries, and had undergone eight operations.

The race

Derek Redmond was in fine form by the Barcelona Olympics. He achieved the fastest time of the first round, and won his quarter-final.

In the semi-final, Redmond also started well, but as he hit the back straight about 250 metres from the finish, his hamstring suddenly tore.

Redmond hobbled before stopping and falling to the ground in pain.

Stretchers were brought over to him, but Redmond decided he wanted to finish the race. After hobbling along the track, he was quickly joined on the track by his father, Jim Redmond.

Jim had barged past security to get to his son, who at first thought were officials trying to stop him.

In an act of brave defiance, Jim and Derek completed the lap of the track together, with Derek leaning on his father's shoulder to help him.

As they finished the finish line, 65,000 people gave them both a standing ovation.

Sadly, as his father had helped him finish, rules stated that Derek was officially disqualified, with Olympic records stating that he 'Did Not Finish' the race.

“People keep asking me about it, even now,” Derek told Fast Running years later. “Probably this week, I’ve had it four or five times. I use it a lot now in presentations and I see the video of it all the time because of that. Even though I didn’t remember much about it at the time, it feels fresh in my memory.

“But the emotion I get when I look at the screen is one of frustration mainly. The reason for that is because I was running pretty well at the point going into the Games. I always feel if I’d finished that race, I’d have run a personal best.

“And so the fact I didn’t finish it, and I got nothing from it, it’s stuck with me because I’ll never know how fast I could have run or how absolutely good I could have been.

“I’ve always thought ‘I’d rather the hamstring had gone in the final.’ Because at least then I’d have known the answer to that one. Instead it was the last race I did.”

A vision of courage

Redmond's race later became the subject of one of the International Olympic Committee's 'Celebrate Humanity' videos, which stated: "Strength is measured in pounds. Speed is measured in seconds. Courage? You can't measure courage".

In 2008, Redmond was also featured in the 'Go World' series of Visa commercials promoting the Olympic Games. The advert features his 1992 race, noting that "he and his father finished dead last, but he and his father finished", and was narrated by Morgan Freeman.

In 2012, Derek and Jim were one of the Olympic torch bearers in London for the Summer Games.

What did Derek Redmond do next?

Two years after the 1992 Olympics, Derek was told by a surgeon that he would never run again.

Instead, with encouragement by his father, he turned to other sports. He went on to play professional basketball for the Birmingham Bullets.

He also served as Director of Development for sprints and hurdles for UK Athletics, and raced motorcycles in the Hottrax Motorsport Racing Club.

Derek Redmond with wife Maria in 2018
Derek Redmond with wife Maria in 2018. Picture: Getty

In 1994, he won Celebrity Gladiators, and served as 'Official Timekeeper' to Referee John Anderson on the classic show. He has also been a commentator for Eurosport.

He currently does motivational speaking thanks to his inspiring story.

In 2011, Derek married partner Maria Yates. He was previously married to the British Olympic swimmer Sharron Davies from 1994 to 2000. The couple have two children together: Elliott and Grace.