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Kay Poe and Esther Kim grew up as best friends and fierce competitors. Their sport was tae kwon do, a form of martial arts that was featured for the first time in the 2000 Sydney Olympics. As Kay and Esther got older, they found themselves in different weight classes, so they rarely met in competition. In the pre-Olympic trials they were each favored to win their classes.

There was just one problem. The United States would be sending representatives from only two of the four weight classes to the Olympics, so only one of them would be able to go to Sydney.

In the final moments of the final bout in her weight class Kay seriously dislocated her kneecap. In spite of her injury, she fought strongly enough to win the match and her division. As she hobbled off the floor her Olympic dreams seemed over. She still had one more match to win—this one against her friend Esther Kim.

Esther saw her coach carrying her friend Kay back to the dressing room. The outcome of the final match was a no-brainer. All Esther had to do was show up, and she was on her way to the Olympics. Her injured friend didn’t have a chance. Esther knew that she, not Kay, would be going to the Olympics.

But in a moment of incredible love and sacrifice, Esther made a decision to bow out of the final match and concede victory to her injured friend. She gave up her Olympic dream so that Kay could realize hers.

When Esther informed Kay of her decision, Kay protested.

“Don’t you dare argue with me about this,” Esther told her. They held each other and cried. “Please don’t think I’m throwing my dreams away,” Esther said, “because I’m not. I’m putting my dreams in you.”

Esther signed the scorecard, withdrawing from the match. Then the two friends had to bow to each other on the mat to make it official. Kay’s coach helped her walk to one side of the mat. Esther walked to the other. By the time they reached the referee in the middle, tears flowed freely. The two young women bowed. The referee signaled Poe the winner. Then the women locked arms, sobbing. As they slowly walked off the mat together, the tae kwon do officials stood and bowed while fans applauded them both

Esther later told stunned reporters, “There’s more than one way to be a champion.”

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