Analysis of Nine Gold Medals by David Roth: 2022

“Nine Gold Medals” is a poem about human values of companionship, empathy and brotherhood. In this poem, nine differently-abled runners participate in Special Olympics in order to achieve the gold medal and the respect that comes with it. All of them had been practicing really hard for the race with the ultimate hope of winning the competition. But this poem ultimately emphasises and celebrates the idea of care and consideration more than the burden the winning.

Analysis of Nine Gold Medals

“Nine Gold Medals” is a poem written by the American rock vocalist, songwriter and author David Roth that celebrates human values of cooperation, compassion, empathy, fairness and concern. This poem reveals the story of nine differently-abled athletes who participated in a Special Olympics. Nine special runners had trained themselves to for the racing event with the hope of winning the gold medal. However, as the race begun, the youngest runner tripped and fell on the ground which made all the other athletes stop to help him without any hesitation. In life, we often prioritize competitions and focus on winning them at any cost irrespective of what comes our way. However, there are even bigger things in life than just winning a competition. This poem emphasizes on the sportsmanship and kindness exhibited by these athletes that made them win a gold medal each for their exemplary behaviour.
The poem is written much like a story in which the poet narrates the tale of nine young runners from all over the country. It has been recorded in the form of a song by David Roth. Roth takes the role of the narrator as well as a spectator as he mentions- “But as sure as I’m standing here telling the story/ Now it’s a strange one, but here’s what occurred.” The poem is written in a very simple language. Poetic devices like alliteration and climax have been used to add beauty and lucidity to the language of the poem.  It is composed on eight stanzas out of which seven stanzas consist of four lines each and the last stanza consists of five lines.
This poem is, to some extent, based on a true account. Special Olympics is the world’s largest sports organization for people with disabilities that focuses on developing the qualities of sportsmanship, self-confidence and team spirit in the individuals. According to some folks at the Special Olympics Washington office, this incident happened in the 1976 track-and-field event held at Spokane, Washington when one of the athletes did actually fall down seeing which two or three other participants stopped to lift him up and eventually finished the race together. However, everyone participating in the race didn’t turn back. This does not, however, change the message that the poem gives us as the spirit of empathy, consideration and brotherhood surpasses the achievement of merely winning a competition at any point.

Poetic Devices

Alliteration is the close repetition of consonant sounds, usually at the beginning of words. Instances of alliteration in the poem are-
“His dreams and his efforts dashed in the dirt”
“But the youngest among them stumbled and staggered”
A climax is the arrangement of ideas according to increasing order of importance. The climax is usually achieved when the text leads up to an event, mood, phase or feeling of importance. For instance, in the poem, firstly all the athletes participate in the race, then they help the fallen athlete and finally they walk together holding hands to cross the finish line. The race ends with each runner receiving a gold medal for their noble deed. Thus, we see an increasing order of importance of the events taking place in the poem.

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