It was late spring / early summer of Karim's junior year in high school. My father and I had driven through the rolling hills and valleys of Upstate NY to where the State Track meet was held. We arrived to find my brother locked in an epic battle with his own self in the triple jump.
Triple Jump consists of three evenly spaced leaps into a pit of soft sand. When done right there is a cadence, a rhythm, a sound.Karim winced in pain and hobbled to where his marks were for the triple. He went through his "launching" routine, each time the pain seemed to build. He started his approach. Everyone around the pit at this time was waiting to see if he could do it - could this hurt athlete actually make it into the pit!
As Karim ran you could tell that he was hobbled. He favored one leg and then, in the middle of his run and as he was about to make the first of the three bounds - he stopped. Onlookers gasped, "Is he quitting?"
By all measures, had Karim chosen to get out of the competition at this time, based on the fact that he was in severe pain - none would question him. He was legitimately injured. Later, as a scholarship track athlete at Bucknell University he would compete with double ankle sprains and even won Patriot League but could barely walk afterwards. But on this day, as a high schooler, he still had to prove himself.
Karim had stopped but he did not bow out of the competition. It was his last attempt and all other jumpers had jumped. People crowded around the pit and approach and cheered him on. They gasped when he stopped not knowing what was going to happen next. Karim turned around and limped back to where his marks were. Once there he stared down the approach, inhaled deeply, and began his starting routine. Just before he started again he inhaled deeply once more and then shot out, like a cannon. On this final run there was no hint of pain, no touch of fear, no scent of weakness. The crowd actually went wild as he mad ehis final leap into the sand.
Though he did not place in that meet I will never forget that moment. It helped to forge in me a similar attitude and approach to athletic adversity and how to manage the challenges in life. Karim went on to win the 110mh and triple jump in the 1992 Section IV Meet. He made the hurdle finals at the State Meet. Karim continued to be an oustanding hurdler and jumper at Bucknell University. After graduating from Bucknell he got his PhD at MIT.
Now, he is a dad and I am sure that achievement makes all of those other accolades pale in comparison. As a new dad myself, I am reflective: Karim was our parents first child. He paved the way and primed them for me and then the rest of our siblings. Thanks Karim for being the "First".
- Your 1st little sibling