ICSE Class 10 Poems and Short Stories Nine Gold Medals (David Roth)
Nine Gold Medals Synopsis and Important Questions
‘Nine Gold Medals’ is written by the American poet David Lee Roth. Apart from being a poet, Roth is very passionate about music. He is a vocalist, songwriter, actor and radio personality. He is also part of a rock band named Van Halen. Roth is a talented guitarist and harmonica player. He has earned top honours at premier songwriting competitions.
In this poem, he is focusing on human values like compassion and cooperation. Through the poem ‘Nine Gold Medals’, the poet David Lee Roth tells us that sporting events or competitions are not just about winning medals but more about showing values like kindness, empathy, love and cooperation. By exhibiting these values, one can be a true sportsman.
The poem is based on a story about nine differently-abled athletes in a Special Olympics event. However, in the first stanza, the poet has not explicitly stated that the Special Olympics is for differently-abled athletes. The poet is trying to highlight the spirit of the games. He is describing the setting of the poem. The place is the venue of the Special Olympics where athletes from all over the country have assembled with hopes for winning a gold, silver or bronze medal in the hundred-yard race. Just like any regular athlete, the athletes participating in this race have spent several weeks and months to train themselves for this event. The spirits are high and they are looking forward to this event.
The poet has further described the scene at the playfield where the event was about to start. There was great excitement among the crowd to watch the athletes competing for a medal. A large crowd of spectators was present to watch the events. They were cheering the players and were enjoying the events which continued throughout the day. The people were excited and were eagerly waiting for the race to start.
Finally, it was time for the race to begin, so all the participants lined up in order. The names of the nine runners who were going to participate were announced. All the participants were determined to win the competition and were lined up at the starting point. The race was supposed to begin at the sound of the gunshot.
As soon as the pistol was shot, all the participants in the race started running as fast as they could. However, the youngest of the participants in the race lost his balance and fell to the ground. The event of a runner falling during the race was unexpected as it does not usually occur. The situation had become tense and stressful. The athlete who fell was devastated. This is a natural reaction for any athlete who would be in such a situation.
To assure the readers of what happened next was really tough, as it is impossible in today's competitive world. The poet says that he is sure that what he witnessed was true as he was telling the readers about the incident. The runner who fell down uttered a moaning cry of frustration and sadness. He had fallen in the race and his dream of winning the race was shattered. It also wasted all the efforts and hard work that he had put in to win the competition as the race was over for him. What happened next was not only unusual but also stunning. The other runners preferred helping their fellow participant to win the most prestigious event of the Special Olympics.
On seeing the runner fall down, the other athletes stopped running. One by one they turned back and went to the athlete who had fallen down. They helped him to stand up. Although they had spent a lot of time and effort in training, they did not hesitate to stop running to help the injured athlete. This is a brilliant act of compassion and empathy for the fallen athlete by the other eight runners.
After helping the fallen athlete to get up, all the nine athletes joined hands and started walking towards the finish line. Thus, the hundred-yard race was now reduced to a walk by the athletes.
The poet mentions that there was a banner hung above the racing track which said ‘Special Olympics’. He further adds that the placement of the banner could not have been more appropriate as the athletes have displayed the value of true sportsmanship by helping the injured athlete and deciding to walk together to the finish line as the injured athlete was not able to run anymore.
As all the athletes walked down past the finish line while holding hands, the race ended and all of them were awarded a gold medal each. There was no second or third position in the race as all the athletes who took part in the race had won the first prize—the gold medal. They were smiling in a very wide manner and were happy after winning a gold medal in the Special Olympics event.
When the audience saw the noble gesture of the athletes walking together past the finish line as one of them was injured and could not run, they gave the athletes a standing ovation. All the runners stood happy and contented as everyone received the gold medal.
Short Answer Questions
- Who are the ‘athletes’? Why is it termed ‘Special Olympics’?
Ans. The ‘athletes’ in the poem are disabled people who are participating in the ‘Special Olympics’. They had come from all over the country. It is termed ‘Special Olympics’ because it is an event organised for people with disabilities. It is named ‘special’ because of the differently-abled status of its participants.
- Why does the last event seem so important?
Ans. Athletes came from all over the country to make their people proud by winning the gold medal. The air was filled with suspense as it was the last event of the day. The hundred-yard race which was the final race of the Special Olympics is also the most prestigious event (100-m dash) at the Olympic Games, because the athlete who wins it is recognised all over the world. Nine differently-abled athletes were competing for this event.
- Were all contestants determined to win? How do we infer this?
Ans. Similar to winning a medal in the Olympic Games, each of the athletes was fired with a longing to win a medal—gold, silver or bronze. They knew the competition had to be very tough. So, they put in a lot of their time in preparation and training. Each of them had trained themselves for many months for the final event. As soon as the pistol was shot, the contestants started running. Thus, it is evident that all of the contestants were determined to win.
- What strange twist occurred during the race and why was it strange?
Ans. As the race began and all contestants started running, the youngest contestant fell down. Something unexpected and surprising happened next. The remaining eight contestants stopped and looked back at their fallen companion. It was strange because they were not expected to stop but continue the race. But, they did what no competitor had ever done. One by one they turned around and came back to the fallen athlete.
- How was the race reduced to a walk?
Ans. All the nine runners had gone through rigorous training for the event and each was determined to win the race, but the youngest of them fell down as soon as the race started. The remaining eight runners stopped and came back to him one by one. When the young boy was brought to his feet, all the nine athletes joined hands and walked to the finish line together. In other words, the contestants walked the distance of a hundred yards (which was to be run) at the speed of the contestant who had fallen down. Eventually, a race meant for running was reduced to a walk.
- How did the race end?
Ans. The eight other runners returned one by one to their fellow runner who had fallen as soon as the race had started. The race ended with all the participants of the race waking past the finish line at the same time. As a result, all of them were awarded a gold medal each in the Special Olympics, declaring them the winners of the race.
- Why were the faces of the nine participants beaming?
Ans. One of the participants had fallen down while running the race. The other eight participants along with the one who had fallen ended the race by walking together towards the finish line. The faces of all the nine participants in the hundred-yard race of the Special Olympics were beaming because they had won a gold medal each. As they had done something wonderful, they were filled with satisfaction and contentment which made their faces beam.
- What makes this race different from other races?
Ans. In other races, participants want to secure the first position for themselves. They do not care if other participants get injured while running. However, in this race, the remaining eight runners raise the participant who had fallen. They cared for the injured participant, and so, they walked together to the finish line. This is a genuine act of empathy and display of human compassion which makes this race different from any other race.
Long Answer Questions
- Justify the appropriateness of the title of the poem.
Ans. The title of the poem ‘Nine Gold Medals’ written by David Roth conveys the theme of the poem. The title invokes a curiosity as to who won the nine gold medals and for what possible reason. The poem has the answer. The title not only reveals the subject matter of the poem but also carries a delicate message.
When the race started, the youngest contestant stumbled right in the initial stage and fell down. The boy felt extremely disappointed and ashamed. The other eight runners came back to pick him, and they ran to the finish line together. All of them reached the finish line together, and hence, all of them became winners. This poem teaches us how encouraging a disappointed person may result in a win for everyone. Human compassion made the athletes forget the competition they had with each other. They picked up their weak companion and finished the race with him.
Thus, they all ended up winning one gold medal each. This justifies the title of the poem.
- What message is conveyed through the poem?
How does the poem reflect the true spirit of sportsmanship?
Ans. Sportsmanship implies that a sports activity will be enjoyed for its own sake, with consideration of fairness, respect and a sense of fellowship with one's competitors. David Roth indicates how human values in a sportsperson are as important as the spirit of competition. In the poem ‘Nine Gold Medals’, athletes came from all over the country to make their people proud by winning the gold medal. They have trained themselves for many months for the final event. All of them were ready to run the race when one of them stumbled and fell down. The other contestants at this point of time could have continued running for the medal, but they pulled up on their heels to help the young boy to stand up. It was thus an exemplary scene that displayed the true spirit of sportsmanship. All the athletes joined hands and changed their hundred-yard race into a walk. All of them cross the finish line together and won a gold medal each for their compassion for a fellow competitor.
- What human values are being addressed in this poem?
Ans. The poem celebrates human values pertaining to kindness, cooperation and empathy. The nine runners were participating in the Special Olympics to achieve their dreams of winning the gold medal. All of them had been strenuously practising for months to run and to win. But the poem brings out the idea that caring and sharing is more important than winning or losing. Sports is not only about winning medals but also about learning values of empathy and cooperation. The poem brings out a situation where the contestants set aside their desire to win and help another contestant who had fallen down. They empathised with him. The contestants came together as a group. They stood by each other and walked together to the finish line and all of them won a gold medal. By awarding gold medals to each one of them, the authorities honoured their display of empathy and human values.
- How were the contestants prepared and what was the environment of the ground?
Ans. In the poem ‘Nine Gold Medals’, poet David Roth has highlighted the display of emotions of nine runners who participated in the Special Olympics. The athletes had come to participate in the ‘Special Olympics’ meant for differently-abled persons. They were determined to win the hundred-yard race. The spectators gathered around the field to cheer and encourage the contestants. As the last and final race was about to begin, the excitement was running high in both spectators as well as contestants.
When the loudspeaker called out the names of the runners, nine resolved athletes stood on the standing line. Blocks were lined up for all those who could use them. They were determined to win the hundred-yard dash. All the nine contestants were differently-abled and were resolved and determined to win the prestigious race.
- What happened to the youngest athlete? How did he react to it?
Ans. The youngest athlete dreamt of winning a medal in the Special Olympics. However, when he fell down on his knees to the ground, he felt all of his dreams and efforts of winning the medal were shattered and his hopes were dashed. He had trained hard but did not get the opportunity to show his talent. It ended his chances of winning the race—something he had been looking forward to for a long time. The fallen contestant was distressed beyond imagination. He gave out a cry in frustration because his hard work had come to nothing. His dream had remained a dream. He was more in mental anguish than in physical pain.
- Explain the line ‘Said more than these words ever will’.
Ans. When the signal was given and the pistol shot was heard, the participants moved fast. They ran as fast as they could. One contestant who was weaker could not run and he fell on the track. The remaining eight contestants stopped and looked back at their fallen companion. They were not expected to stop but continue the race. But, they did what no competitor had ever done. One by one they turned around and came back to the fallen athlete. They lifted him, a young boy, to his feet. Looking at the fallen contestant, they all realised the anguish of the fallen boy, and so, they knew what to do. Their gesture of lifting the lad to his feet is praiseworthy.
The poet says that he is falling short of words to describe the way the contestants displayed their empathy and kindness towards the boy who had fallen. He says that the banner ‘Special Olympics’ said more than his words ever would as whatever happened on the field that day was special in the true sense of the word.
‘Said more than these words ever will’ are the concluding lines of the poem.
- Describe the thought process of the remaining eight runners.
Ans. The poem ‘Nine Gold Medals’ brings out the theme of empathy and the celebration of human values. Empathy is the ability to understand another person’s feelings from his/her point of view. It means to put yourself in another's shoes. The poem celebrates human values pertaining to kindness, cooperation and empathy. It brings out the idea that caring and sharing is more important than winning or losing. The other eight runners were not selfish, as they had stopped running on seeing the youngest runner fall on the track. They also helped him get up. It was more prestigious an event than if only one athlete had won it and was hailed as a hero. These eight athletes preferred helping the fallen runner than winning the gold medal. This shows their generous nature.
- Why were nine gold medals given?
Ans. When the youngest contestant fell down, something unexpected and surprising happened. The remaining eight contestants stopped and looked back at the fallen athlete. They were not expected to stop but continue the race. But, they did what no competitor had ever done. One by one they turned around and came back to the fallen athlete. Looking at the fallen contestant, they all realised the anguish of the fallen boy, and so, they knew what to do. Their gesture of lifting the lad to his feet is praiseworthy. When the young boy was brought to his feet, all the nine athletes joined hands and walked to the finish line together. In other words, the contestants walked the distance of a hundred yards (which was to be run) at the speed of the contestant who had fallen down. Thus, a race meant for running was reduced to a walk. The race ended with not one but nine winners. Each one of them was given a gold medal for they walked hand in hand to the finish line.
- What do you think was the reaction of the spectators?
Ans. The poet says that the kindness shown by the other participants towards the injured participant made the audience give them a standing ovation. They were also happy as each one of them had won a gold medal. The feeling of the audience and the happiness of the participants could not have been expressed in words by the poet. The authorities also appreciated the gesture of all the nine participants by awarding them a gold medal each. This act was responded in affirmation by the audience. They appreciated this display of compassion which was seen on the beaming faces of the participants. The positive response of the audience added to the glory of the event and the happiness each participant felt after receiving the medal.
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