By Vincent Lam 10G
2016. Sochi, Russia.
The crowd roared. Gliding across the glassy Olympic ice rink, Jamaican speed skater Bephen Sadbury was well ahead of his competition. Pushing hard and fast, the 1000 metre sprint finals were going to be his. Flaunting his flawless technique, he took every turn in his stride; as graceful as a ballerina, with the speed of a cheetah. Pacing himself for the final 200 metres of the race, he continued whizzing along; leaving small, shimmering ice crystals in his wake. 50 metres remaining. The end of the race was coming up fast. Legs surging forward, Bephen put in a last ditch effort to end the race. His competition had no show. Flying across the red line, Bephen lost his balance, wobbled a little, and fell spectacularly onto his back. Sliding a clear twenty metres before his legs met the ice rink barrier with a muffled thud. Pulling himself up, he stood to bow to his crowd. However, there were no competitors on the rink. No crowd. No race.
Sighing deeply to himself, he glanced up at the Olympic timer anchored to the wall closest to him. “1:40,” he muttered. Shoulders slumped in defeat; Bephen was disappointed because he had practised from dawn till dusk this day; with no success. Today was the day before the 1000 metre sprint grand final; and Bephen wasn’t up to scratch. Reflecting upon the time taken to make the distance, he realised he had an incredibly low chance of coming close to winning. This was because of his rival and enemy Tatthieu Murcotte; professional speed skater, and playboy from Canada. The beast consistently finished the heats at a mark of 1 minute and 30 seconds. A clear winner on any terms. Bephen’s own personal best seemed inferior to the Canadian’s at 1 minute and 35 seconds. It was far too slow to beat the tall, bearded Canadian speedster. However, Bephen was thirsty to win a gold medal for Jamaica but knowing sports, it was probably going to be his one and only chance of competing in the Olympics. Walking off the rink and dragging his leg towards the changerooms, Jamaican speed skater Bephen Sadbury knew he had to do well; no matter what the cost.
Having had dinner, Bephen sunk into a deep sleep as soon as he hit the covers of his luxurious bed. Suddenly, Bephen “awoke” in the stands of an ice rink. However, after some examination, he realised it was an ice rink at which he’d raced at a couple of years ago. Glancing down at the competitors of the first heat, he recognised a figure clad in a green, black and gold jumpsuit. That person was Bephen Sadbury. Bephen in the stands then made a motion to stand and yell to himself but he realised that he was in fact paralysed as he watched the event unfold. Suddenly, time seemed to fast forward, and past Bephen was already racing; well ahead of the pack. However, in what seemed like slow motion, past Bephen collided with another racer as they turned a corner. Wincing, future Bephen cringed as he watched as the unconscious him was lying on the ice. Blood was spurting everywhere. His blood.
Unexpectedly, time seemed to wobble and Bephen was transported into a very white, sterile looking environment. Seeing people in blue smocks donning gloves and facemasks, he realised that he was in a hospital. Again he was paralysed; except this time it was him lying in the small bed. Looking over to his leg, he saw how bad the skate-blade induced wound was. Suddenly, a friendly, bearded doctor came into the room. With a hearty voice, he told Bephen that his leg had required over 60 stitches and that he was very lucky to survive; given the amount of blood that he had lost. He also mentioned that after what had happened, his leg would never be the same again. He said clearly, “Unfortunately, you will not be at your top form any longer on the rink. If you were to stress your leg, the scarring could very well reopen your wound, and you’d be in a bit of a pickle wouldn’t you, young man? With this, the man turned around and the hospital started to dissolve around Bephen.
Suddenly, instead of going back in time, he flew forward in his mind and fell a couple of metres onto a cold, wet surface. It was ice! Suddenly, he was whisked to his feet and racing in the final race; the race which was planned for tomorrow. Strangely, his legs wouldn’t respond to him and his speed went into an erratic spiral of fasts and slows; this led to the crowd booing him and ultimately; him coming last. After the race, Bephen was walking towards the changerooms in disappointment. Suddenly, he heard a lone voice chanting, “Jamaican Joker! Jamaican Joker!” This was a terrible sign, since only people who really despised him called him by this title. Hearing the chant grow in volume, he looked up at the grandstand realising the source of the chant was Tatthieu; not one of him, but it seemed as though the whole crowd had had his face surgically applied to his face. It was all too real; and too scary for Bephen. Turning to support from the competitors, he realised that the faces of the referees and the competitors on the podium were also Tatthieu’s. Hearing feet shuffling towards him, he realised everyone in the stadium were advancing on him. Looking up, there were Tatthieus getting ready to jump on him. Realising there was nowhere to run; he closed his eyes and waited.
With a shuddering jolt of mind inflicted pain to his nose, Bephen woke up in a cold sweat. He looked over to his clock; 4:00am it read. Lying back down, he closed his eyes fearfully as sleep washed over him once more.
The atmosphere within the stadium was electric. Dozens of camera crews from all around the world were scrambling over one another to catch a glimpse of the 5000 metre relay placeholders. The crowd was rippling with applause as China was announced in third place, Canada in second, and the United States winning gold by a hair.
Bephen watched on in amazement, just as he realised that the Olympic referees were calling him over to allow the starting of his race. Dazed for a moment, he stumbled towards the starting line; seeing his competitors – especially Tatthieu, not knowing what to expect.
With the rest of the competitors, Tatthieu watched as the lanky Jamaican strode towards them, looking more the sprinter than ice skater. Chuckling to himself, Tatthieu knew that this was going to be an easy win. This was because Jamaicans aren’t real ice skaters. Making some last minute adjustments to his skates and equipment, Tatthieu talked with his coach. With a minute left, he took a deep breath as he waited for the event to start.
As the gun sounded, the racers were freed from their anxiety and they took off at an incredible pace. Tearing up the ice at the first few turns, none of them were giving up the hard-fought lead. However, after two more laps, there were three clear leaders of the pack. Them being Tatthieu, an English skater and Bephen. In hot pursuit of Tatthieu and the Englishman, Bephen noticed his leg was starting to throb. “Now of all times!” he thought frantically to himself. Touching his palm to his thigh, he noticed that his hand came away; sticky and wet with his blood. 500 metres to go and he was slowly falling back as the pain in his leg started to get the better of him. Oddly, time seemed to stop and he revisited the doctor from the hospital. Continuing through his memory, the doctor had turned his back from Bephen, pulled out a small slip of paper which he had mentioned would help him if he ever wanted to race once more. With that, he had said to Bephen that his leg may never be the same again, but if he willed it, his determination to achieve greater would offset his condition. Remembering this, Bephen unbowed his head, took a deep breath and pushed his legs as hard as he could; despite the blood, despite the fact that he was losing.
Closing in on the Englishman, he easily swept him aside in a few graceful strokes of his legs. 200 metres to go. There, 20 metres ahead of him was the Canadian whom he longed to defeat in battle. Ice skating battle. Surging forwards towards Tatthieu, the man’s once cocky face was no more. Looking at Tatthieu, Bephen could see that his face was now wracked in fear and anxiety. Both competitors vying for first place, this was just a race between the two of them now. The Jamaican against the Canadian.
Within the next few seconds, Bephen with his berserk grin had caught up an enormous amount; the two skaters were practically side by side. Leaving a small trail of blood droplets in his wake, Bephen was pushing himself to his final limit. Tattheiu knew this, but he was already going as hard as he could as well. Starting to look a little unsteady, Tatthieu’s legs were starting to struggle with the tall Jamaican’s stroke and rhythm.
Quickly, the finish line came into sight, both skaters knew this and they were not going to let the other win at all costs. On the verge of pushing one another, Tatthieu suddenly appeared to gain the lead on Bephen and surged forward. However, looking to his immediate right, Bephen did the unthinkable.
He leapt for the finish line.
Walking out of the stadium, Bephen pulled out the slip of paper that the doctor had given him. On it was written:
Under the bludgeoning of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed
How charged with punishments the scroll
I am the master of my fate
I am the captain of my soul.
Smiling to himself at the words which had helped him through these times, he fingered the medal around his neck.
He held it up to the sun.
The Olympic rings shone bright gold.