James' gesture the true spirit of the Olympics

20:26, Aug 14 2012
Kirani James
OLYMPIC SPIRIT: Kirani James hugs Oscar Pistorius after their 400m semi-final.

What was the most important thing that happened at the Olympics? Usain Bolt's triple double? Michael Phelps's elevation to legend? Anna Meares being crowned track sprint queen?

They were all memorable performances but none was, in the greater scheme of things, as important as something Grenada's Kirani James did.

Not because he won the 400 metres. Not because he won his country's first ever Olympic medal. Not because he is just 19 years old. And not even because he is a good sport who shook every competitor's hand before celebrating his win.

It was something James did at the end of his semi-final that has defined him as a special human being. He stood and waited for the last man to cross the line. He asked to swap name bibs with him. That last man was Oscar Pistorius. The Blade Runner. The fastest man with no legs.

As the mother of a child with a disability, you want nothing more than for him to be accepted by his peers; to just get on with his life free of patronising words and condescending glares.

Sure, after a bit of a fight, Pistorius was accepted into the Olympics. Critics who fear his leg-swing speed gives him an advantage forget he has no ankles with which to spring from the blocks. But simply being there wasn't acceptance for Pistorius. It was just qualification.


It was the unspoken words of James's gesture - ''You are my equal'' - that said so much. Acceptance. That the bloke last across the line had done something just as profound as James.

''I just see him as another athlete, another competitor,'' James said after his semi-final. ''What's more important is that I see him as another person. He's someone I admire and respect.''

And while Pistorius has and will continue to inspire, it was the actions of James that filled the parents of kids with disabilities with the hope that one day others can see them as equals.

As we pick apart Australia's Olympics campaign through eyes filled with a hideous obsession with gold medals, Kirani James is the prototype we should be aiming for.