Everywhere you looked in South Bend there was a triumph of spirit. And humor. And humanity. Jorge Dalmau, 23, from Guadalajara, Mexico, finished seventh in the 800-meter run. His mother, Martha, smiled proudly as he stood on the awards platform and received his ribbon along with the silk rose that went to each competitor. Asked if her son would be disappointed with seventh, Martha Dalmau looked surprised and then shook her head, laughing. "As he runs, Jorge was saying, 'Where is my mother?' " she recounted. " 'Go, Jorge, run fast!' we yell. But he stops to wave. 'Don't stop! You must keep going!' I try to hide, but he is waving at me and the other runners are passing him. It doesn't matter. He will tell everybody he finish in first place no matter where he finish. It's all the first place.
"You know, it was the first time he flies, coming here. He is very afraid, but we tell him, 'Jorge, we cannot drive and we cannot go by the train, so if you do not fly in the airplane, you don't go to the Special Olympics.' He thinks about that, then he asks me: 'Can I take a piece of cloud?'
" 'What do this mean?' I ask him.
" 'In the airplane. Can I reach out the window and take a piece of cloud?' " Martha Dalmau smiled at this memory.
" 'Of course,' I tell him. 'No problem.' "
Jorge came over then and showed her his seventh-place ribbon. He was well pleased with it, and she asked him where he had finished. He smiled the smile of a man who had been to the clouds and touched them. It was a look that was on a lot of faces around South Bend last week. Then Jorge Dalmau said, "Primero."