I grew up in a home where the televised Olympics were a big deal. Mom and Dad were faithful Olympic fans—both summer and winter—enjoying the spectacle of the opening and closing ceremonies, cheering on US athletes, being intrigued by the back stories, learning about sports they rarely watched and more.
I haven’t watched them as faithfully as I have grown older, but great stories will still emerge from this Olympics: Lexington native Tyson Gay “world’s fastest man” goes for gold, swimmer Michael Phelps tries to break Mark Spitz’ record of seven gold medals, one of the “Lost Boys of Sudan” is carrying the flag, and on and on.
Often great stories are turned into movies. What is your favorite Olympic movie? There’s Cool Runnings about the Jamaican bobsled team. Or Miracle, the story of Herb Brooks and the US hockey team that won the gold over the dreaded Russians in Lake Placid. But my favorite has to be Chariots of Fire, which follows the athletic skill and bold Christian faith of Scottish runner Eric Liddell. He was, ironically, called as a missionary to China. Remember that great line when Eric is debating with his sister over his participation in the Games? “God made me for China. But God also made me fast, and when I run, I feel His pleasure.”
I thought about Liddell this week when I read the story of American marathoner Ryan Hall. The 25-year-old will only be running his fourth marathon—but in each of the previous three, he has set records of speeds faster than any Olympic gold medal run in history. Obviously, that sort of performance has created a lot of buzz.
When Ryan got a platform, he said, “It isn’t the records, championships, or medals that make life fulfilling. It’s the life of following Christ.” Before the Olympic trials in New York’s Central Park last November, he posted an on-line testimony that said, in part: “As I prepare for my first Olympic trials, I feel God calling me to run free, to run free from having to make the team, free from the worries of needing to prove myself, free from the riches of the world, free to run with a heart full of passion and praise for God, free to pour myself out for Him, not for me.”
With that sort of heart, I’m sure Ryan will feel God’s pleasure—and spread that joy to others.
(The marathon is traditionally the final event of the Olympics, on Aug. 24)