This Olympics have been pretty historic for Puerto Rico.
Our Monica Puig won the first Olympic Gold Medal for our island ever (we do have other gold medals won by Puerto Ricans representing the United States) – and a few other of our athletes qualified for finals, the one that impressed me the most was Rafael Quintero on men’s diving. He did such a great job I was proud of him even before the finals!
You might have heard about this incident though:
Yeap. That happened.
If I want to explain what that meant for us I have to start by saying that, of all the athletes we sent to the Olympics, the one that we felt more “confident”? (is that even a proper term to refer to an athlete? I don’t know anything about sports so this is new for me) about was Javier Culson. Puig for example, is an amazing athlete and we know she performs strongly at all times, but her qualification into finals was something we hadn’t seen in her. In the big tournaments she has been getting disqualified in the third round. She matured and now we know she’s ready for the Grand Slams, but we hadn’t seen that yet.
Culson on the hand, has put us many times in the first place in International events. He’s got the experience, he’s got the condition, he is consistent. If I was into betting and had the money to do so, I would’ve bet on him to bring us a medal.
He got into the finals, and we were thrilled because he was doing 48:26. Ideally, if he went bellow forty eight, we were pretty much in the podium. That’s twenty six centesimals. That IS NOTHING.
I was in the car about a minute from my home thinking I’m going to get to see the repetition if I hurry up enough. I was listening on the radio and the commentator said he was standing up to watch the race because he couldn’t watch it sitting down. They lined up, race starts, and someone had a foul. A false start, and I was thinking that sucks for the concentration factor, who could it be. And someone told the commentator that it was Culson. And he started this negation party and I was raving with my glow sticks right in it with him because NO, IT WASN’T CULSON. Why were they even mentioning his name, BE SILENT.
But it was him. He said he had never been fouled for a false start before. In his career. EVER.
First question on pretty much everyone’s head? Oh my God, WHY?!
On that moment, after that question, there was a silence. Today, having read and seen how this island has been pouring out love, respect and understanding towards this man, I can say that; while Puig’s medal still feels glorious, what Culson gave us if far more important.
He gave us the opportunity to show how amazing we truly are. Yes, we can celebrate better than any other place on earth, but we can also pick up the ones who have fallen down. One of our most precious qualities is to be empathic and embrace those who need to be strengthen.
Through him we can show our kids that, look, sometimes mistakes happen. You might study your butt off for that test and still get the most valuable answer wrong. You might work your butt off to get that presentation right and then get wrong the one number your boss wants. It sucks. You cry. Men and women, you ugly cry because you wanted it so badly. But then you have to remember that as soon as you tell someone, you’ll get a hug, a pat in the back. Someone will tell you that it’s ok, next time you’ll kill it. Most importantly: there will be a next time. Because you will get the eff up and keep going. When it is what you want, it’s worth it.
So, Culson made it possible that I read letters of kids telling him to get up and keep on going, letters of people asking him to please don’t apologise, that we beg him to forgive us instead; when all we do is stand in front of the TV waiting for him to bring us glory while he sacrifices his body, his time with his family, his entire life to brings us those moments. I’ve seen so many people telling him we are proud of him because his heart is gold for us. Hundreds of photos of him visiting fans at the hospital, signing autographs for kids who want to be just like him have come up everywhere. He was devastated and everyone on social media was telling him to come home because we just wanted to hug him and tell him we’ve got his back.
He didn’t bring us a medal, he was the medal. Which only means, that we all are. When we work hard, when we are humble, when we help someone else, when we say ‘you can do it!’; we are the gold.
And now we remember that too.