All my life I have wanted to be a hero. I’ve wanted to be the guy that does the right thing when everyone is else doing the wrong thing. Or not doing anything at all. Rescue babies from fires. Tackle terrorist on the plane. Catch children falling from the balconies of medium-rise buildings. Be the one metallurgist in the stadium when the police are trying diffuse the bomb and the last hurdle is a general knowledge question: “What happens when you rapidly cool austenitic steel without giving time for the carbon to diffuse?”
“MARTENSITE! MARTENSITE!” I would scream, bounding down the steps, thus saving everybody in the stadium and subsequently appearing on News Hour.
The closest I’ve ever come to doing anything remotely heroic is staging a walkout from my class in engineering college. Not because I am Malayali — *laughter* — but because the night before somebody fell off a hostel terrace and died, and the authorities were trying to hush it up by acting as if nothing happened. Oh and I also broke a story on CWG 2010 corruption long before it became cool to do so.
Anyways. I digress. This is a story of a true hero.
But then Norman did something else. “I believe in what you believe. Do you have another one of those for me ?” he asked pointing to the Olympic Project for Human Rights badge on the others’ chests. “That way I can show my support in your cause.” Smith admitted to being astonished, ruminating: “Who is this white Australian guy? He won his silver medal, can’t he just take it and that be enough!”.
Smith responded that he didn’t, also because he would not be denied his badge. There happened to be a white American rower with them, Paul Hoffman, an activist with the Olympic Project for Human Rights. After hearing everything he thought “if a white Australian is going to ask me for an Olympic Project for Human Rights badge, then by God he would have one!” Hoffman didn’t hesitate: “I gave him the only one I had: mine”.
I’ve read this story many times before in different places. And each time I am moved tremendously.