Tuesday, August 16, 2016

To An Athlete Dying Young



To An Athlete Dying Young
A. E. Housman, 1859 - 1936

The time you won your town the race   
We chaired you through the market-place;   
Man and boy stood cheering by,   
And home we brought you shoulder-high.   
   
To-day, the road all runners come,     
Shoulder-high we bring you home,   
And set you at your threshold down,   
Townsman of a stiller town.   
   
Smart lad, to slip betimes away   
From fields where glory does not stay,  
And early though the laurel grows   
It withers quicker than the rose.   
   
Eyes the shady night has shut   
Cannot see the record cut,   
And silence sounds no worse than cheers  
After earth has stopped the ears:   
   
Now you will not swell the rout   
Of lads that wore their honours out,   
Runners whom renown outran   
And the name died before the man.  
   
So set, before its echoes fade,   
The fleet foot on the sill of shade,   
And hold to the low lintel up   
The still-defended challenge-cup.   
   
And round that early-laurelled head 
Will flock to gaze the strengthless dead,   
And find unwithered on its curls   
The garland briefer than a girl’s.

Chris Mears (pictured above) suffered a ruptured spleen in January 2009 while he was training in Sydney for the Youth Olympic Festival. He was suffering from glandular fever but was not displaying the usual symptoms. His organs were squeezed by swelling, and further aggravated by the impact of his dives. This caused his spleen to rupture. After losing two litres of blood and being given a 5% chance of survival by doctors upon admission to the hospital, he was told it was likely he would never dive again. For several days he was kept alive by medical intervention and his platelet count was at 2. Upon discharge, Mears remained in Australia until fit to fly. However his family returned to their hotel room one morning to find him having a seizure on the floor. Mears suffered a 7-hour seizure in total which led to a three-day coma. Usually someone suffering something of this scale would be expected to have suffered irretrievable brain-damage and physical disabilities. He later described arguing with the doctors telling him it was Thursday, that he was certain it was still Monday. Despite being told that he would never dive again, Mears made a slow introduction back into diving, and went on to compete eighteen months later at the 2010 Commonwealth Games in India. He does however still to this day have a trademark 30-cm scar down the middle of his abdomen, curtailing his abdominal movement. At this year's Olympics, Mears showed just how well he could dive with the best by winning gold in the men's synchronized 3m springboard.

2 comments:

Susan said...

An inspiring post, Joe, and a lovely poem. Thank you for sharing Chris' story.

Of course if NBC had taken the time to show any of the synchronized 3m springboard event, we might have seen Chris Mears compete.

Mr. Carpenter said...

A lovely, but very sad poem.
When I was a teenager I came upon scene of a fatal car/truck accident. They were carrying away the covered body of one of the boys - but his perfect, undamaged arm and hand fell loosely about the stretcher. It wasn't the blood and gore that I remember, but the heavy sadness of the unrealized potential and possibility of the owner of that perfect arm.