Hands That Drew Gold
Muhamad Farid Husen crossed no finishing line in Argentina. He won no race, scored no points, swam to no victory. He never made it to the podium at the 2018 Youth Olympic Games. Yet, every medal at the Games spoke of his story. Gold, silver, bronze – the dangling dreams around many a beaming athlete – were a culmination of his design and ingenuity.
Farid, who hails from the lesser known hills of East Java in Indonesia, is a 19-year old public health student with a creative bug. The medal maker – with his contagious smile – stumbled into the Olympic Movement in 2015, lured by a YouTube clip of his favourite sitcom character Mr. Bean performing at the London 2012 Opening Ceremony. Struck by the grandeur of the Olympic Stadium, he went on to watch the entire evening on repeat, and then scrolled over and swooned as the rings rose at the Beijing 2008 Opening Ceremony. He longed to be a part of the celebration and, three years later, right after watching Rio welcome the world with a carnival at the 2016 Summer Olympic Games, his window of opportunity came with a medal design competition for the Youth Olympic Games Buenos Aires 2018.
Farid found the announcement on the Youth Olympic Instagram page and decided to give it a shot. He scoured the platform to contact Burzo Ciprian, former champion of the Medal Design Competition for the Winter Youth Olympic Games Lillehammer 2016. They exchanged tips and advice for a winning submission. Inspiration is in elements all around, Ciprian advised. For the first two weeks, Farid struggled to find what spoke to him. Sketch after sketch went to waste. But then, a memory flashed like a glint of gold. “It just occurred to me, there were fireworks at the London 2012 Opening Ceremony,” he said. “In fact, there are fireworks at every opening ceremony.” Drawing fervently before the idea could slip out of his mind, he came with a rather simple design – streaks of sparklers running through the Olympic rings, connecting the celebration of sport to the victory of the athletes.
Time passed slowly after his submission, and when news finally came that the young Indonesian had won out of 300 entries from more than 50 countries, he had a hard time ingesting it. Sitting in his high school classroom in Ponorogo, his mind grew restless during lessons. “I had to check with last time’s winner if the email was real, and he said yes,” Farid said. Once the official announcement was made and Farid was invited to the Games in Argentina, it finally sunk in. “My mother and my sister cried,” he said. “I also cried by myself.” His eyes dreamt of fireworks in Buenos Aires, but it wasn’t as simple as packing a pair of traditional Batik shirts and a trip to the other side of the world. Farid did not have a passport.
Papers were filed with urgency, forms were filled and letters written. With his first stamp on a virgin passport, Farid finally landed in Argentina after 35 hours of traveling over 15,100 kilometres. He was greeted with a slew of interviews, a meeting with International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach, a display case of his medals and a ticket to the Opening Ceremony. Ignoring his jet lag, Farid soaked in all the attention, visualising athletes standing on the podium, cherishing their medals with his designs as memories for years to come. “Perhaps when they retire as Olympians, they will sit in a chair, drink coffee and look at their medals,” he smiled.
With a trove of stories to tell his family and friends, Farid returned to Indonesia from his maiden trip on 10 October. The Opening Ceremony in Buenos Aires had not disappointed him – it was a massive street party with colour and culture in an Olympic first. The Games closed eight days later, with champions carrying their hardware back to different parts of the globe. But the Javan boy’s dream is far from over. In fact, it has just taken flight, much like Farid himself. With Indonesia planning to bid for the Olympic Games in 2032, Farid has his mind made up. If the rings come home, he will be ready – in his colourful Batik shirt – to welcome the world.By Sonali Prasad, IOC Young Reporter