My grandpa once told me a story of a great Romanian athlete, great at sprint canoe, who dominated this Olympic event for more then twenty years, participating at five Olympics in this time and winning several gold medals. He told me a story where Ivan Pazaichin, because that’s the name of the athlete, qualified to the finals of the 1972 Munich Olympic games, event though his paddle shattered into pieces in that race.
The Olympics of 1972 had already started, and in that day of competition the qualification trials for C1 sprint canoeing 1000 meters were on. It was the first Olympics for Ivan and the referees and the crowd thought he was a rookie who will only qualify for the finals. To make it all clear for you, the rule book stated that the race will stop if a paddle is broken within 25 meters or something happen to the participants.
All they had to do is raise the arms in the air. The race started, and what do you know, Ivan’s paddle splinted in half from one end to another within 25 meters since the start of the race. With his mind at the rule book, Ivan raised his hands over his head showing his paddle, but the referees did not see, or did not want to see, that he had a problem with the paddle because it was broken longitudinally.
What a bad luck for the greenhorn of this Olympics! That kind of thing could ruin someone’s confidence for life. But not Ivan’s! In the meantime, his canoe started to slip away beyond the 25 meters margin and there is nothing more to do, because after 25 meters everything applies. Then, Ivan the brave, started paddle with what was left from his paddle. He moved his arms like crazy, trying to keep up in that race. For him, the most important thing was to maintain the steering of the canoe and try not to flip up, because the canoe is hard to control without a good paddle. He also had to bear in mind the fact the he must finish the race within a given time to qualify trough the final.
Patzaichin tried and finally managed to finish the race two minutes after the rest, but still whining a valid time to qualify trough the final. Not knowing that he had a broken paddle, the spectators started cheering him up thinking that he was a weaker contestant who struggles just to finish the race. In the official board, it was stated that he abandoned the race, but after Ivan contested this decision he was allowed by the referees to participate in the final.
The day of the final came and Ivan had already forgotten what happen in the qualifying round. The race stared and Ivan won the final with four seconds ahead without struggling too hard. What an amazing power to pull trough from Ivan Pazaichin. He was in agony, but at the very end he was the one smiling with a gold medal at his neck.