The Astroturf he was sitting on was as hot as the competition he faced today at the National Junior Olympics. The pole was set at 17 feet. That was three inches higher than his personal best. Michael Stone faced the most challenging day of his pole-vaulting career.
The stands were still filled with about 20,000 people, even though the final race had ended an hour earlier. The pole vault is truly the glamour event of any track-and-field competition. It combines the grace of a gymnast with the strength of a body builder. It also has the element of flying, and the thought of flying as high as a two-story building is a mere fantasy to anyone watching such an event. Today and now, it is not only Michael Stone's reality and dream - it's his quest .
As long as Michael could remember, he had always dreamed of flying. Michael's mother read him numerous stories about flying when he was growing up. Her excitement and passion for details made Michael's dreams full of color and beauty. Michael had this one recurring dream. He would be running down country road. He could feel the rocks and chunks of dirt at his feet. As he raced down the golden-lined wheat fields, he always out-ran the locomotives passing by. It was at the exact moment he took a deep breath that he lifted off the ground. He would soar like an eagle.
Wherever he flew, he was always with a keen eye for detail and the free spirit of his mother's love. His dad, Bert Stone, on the other hand, was not a dreamer. He believed in hard work and sweat. His motto: If you want something, work for it!
From the age of 14, Michael did just that. He began a very careful and regimented weight-lifting program. He worked out every other day with weights, with some kind of running work on alternate days. The program was carefully monitored by Michael's coach, trainer, and father.
All of Michael's vaults today seemed to be the reward for his hard work. If Michael Stone was surprised, thrilled, or arrogant about clearing the bar at 17 feet, you couldn't tell. As soon as he landed on the inflated landing mat and with the crowd on their feet, Michael immediately began preparing for his next attempt. He seemed oblivious of the fact he had just surpassed his personal best by three inches and that he was one of the final two competitors in the pole-vaulting event at the National Junior Olympics.
When Michael cleared the bar at 17 feet, 2 inches and 17 feet, 4 inches, again he showed no emotion. Constant preparation and determination were his vision. As he lay on his back and heard the crowd moan, he knew the other vaulter had missed his final jump. He knew it was time for his final jump.
A miss would get him second place. Nothing to be ashamed of, but Michael would not allow himself the thought of not winning first place. He rolled over and did his ritual of three finger-tipped Marine-style push-ups . He found his pole, stood, and stepped on the runway that led to the most challenging event of his 17-year-old life.
The runway felt different this time. It startled him for a brief moment.Then it all hit him like a wet bale of hay. The bar was set at nine inches higher than his personal best. That's only one inch off the national record, he thought.
The intensity of the moment filled his mind with anxiety. He began shaking the tension from his body. It wasn't working. He became tenser. Why was this happening to him now, he thought. He began to get nervous. Fear would be a more accurate description. What was he going to do? He had never experienced these feelings.
Then out of nowhere, and from the deepest depths of his soul, he envisioned his mother. His mother always used to tell him that when you felt tense, anxious, or even scared, take deep breaths.
So he did and gently laid his pole at his feet. He began to stretch out his arms and upper body. The light breeze that was once there was now gone. He carefully picked up his pole. He felt his heart pounding. He was sure the crowd did, too. The silence was deafening. When he heard the singing of some distant robins , he knew it was time to fly.
As he began sprinting down the runway, something felt wonderfully different, yet familiar. The surface below him felt like the country road he used to dream about. The rocks and chunks of dirt, the visions of the golden wheat fields seemed to fill his thoughts.
When he took a deep breath, it happened. Michael Stone was now flying, just like in his childhood dreams. Only this time he knew he wasn't dreaming. The air around him seemed the purest and freshest he had ever sensed. Michael was soaring with the majesty of an eagle.
It was either the eruption of the people in the stands or the thump of his landing that brought Michael back to earth. On his back with that wonderful hot sun on his face, he could only envision the smile on his mother's face. He knew his dad was probably smiling too, even laughing. Bert would always do that when he got excited. What he didn't know was that Dad was hugging Mom and crying, harder than Michael had ever seen before.
也许是看台上观众爆发出的欢呼声，也许是他落地时发出的砰的一声，让迈克尔重新回到了现实。他仰面躺在那儿，依然灼热的阳光舒服地照在他的脸上。此刻，他唯一能够想象到的是妈妈脸上的笑 容。他知道，爸爸可能也在微笑，甚至可能是开怀大笑——伯特激动时总是这样。但迈克尔不知道的是，他的爸爸这时正紧紧拥抱着妈 妈，放声大哭，哭得那样动情，是迈克尔以前从未见过的。
Michael was immediately swarmed with people hugging and congratulating him on the greatest achievement thus far in his life. He later went on that day to clear 17 feet and 6 1/2 inches: National and International Junior Olympics record.
With all the media attention, endorsement possibilities and swarming herds of heartfelt congratulations, Michael's life would never be the same. It wasn't just because he won the National Junior Olympics and set a new world record. It wasn't because he had just increased his personal best by 9 1/2 inches.
It was simply because Michael Stone is BLIND.