The Olympics

Many people have been glued to their television sets watching the 2020 Olympics from Tokyo.
25 years ago, Team GB were languishing 36th in Atlanta with only one gold medal. In 2016 in Rio we surpassed London 2012 and ended up second with 27 gold, 23 silver and 17 bronze medals. This year Team GB ended up fourth, having amassed 22 gold, 21 silver and 22 bronze medals, with some outstanding performances from the British athletes, not least Sky Brown, who at the age of 13 is the youngest British Olympian, winning a bronze medal in skateboarding.

Team GB chief Mark England hailed the medal haul in Tokyo as “the greatest achievement in British Olympic history”. He said, “Not only has the team made history but it has probably made history on the back of the most complex and most challenging and difficult environment that we will face certainly in my lifetime”.

Jessie Owens, an African-American athlete in the 1936 summer Olympics said, “Olympics – a lifetime of training for 10 seconds”. Athletes are disciplined in their sport and train day in and day out, whatever the weather. There is often a commitment, both financially and emotionally, by family members taking the young athlete early in the morning to train. You do not hear of athletes spending their evenings in the pub, eating junk food and spending hours watching DVDs!

I read recently about Allan and Tanya Williams, both 50, from Pontlanfraith, parents of Lauren, 22, who won a silver medal in taekwondo. Tanya moved out of the family home to a caravan on the outskirts of Manchester, so her daughter, then 13, could be close to her training centre. Even then, Tanya was travelling 120 miles a day to taxi Lauren from school to training and back to the caravan site. The financial outlay was huge: they spent “not far off £100,000”. But the investment paid off when the couple, joined by friends and family, watched their daughter win a silver medal.

Joan Samuelson said, “As every runner knows, running is about more than just putting one foot in front of the other; it is our lifestyle and who we are”.

Oprah Winfrey said, “Running is the greatest metaphor of life because you get out of it what you put into it”.

All races have a start. Using this analogy for life, it is not a 100 metre sprint but a marathon.
Nelson Mandela said, “Running taught me valuable lessons. In cross-country competition, training counted more than intrinsic ability and I could compensate for a lack of aptitude with diligence and discipline. I applied this in everything I did”.

The 100 metre athlete can see the tape, but not the marathon runner.

The apostle Paul, writing to the church in Philippi, stated: “I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus”. The Message translation puts it this way, “… but I’ve got my eye on the goal, where God is beckoning us onward – to Jesus. I’m off and running and I’m not turning back. So let’s keep focused on that goal, those of us that want everything God has for us” [Philippians 3:14-15].

And Paul, this time writing to the church in Corinth, said, “You’ve all been to the stadium and seen the athletes race. Everyone runs; one wins. Run to win. All good athletes train hard. They do it for a gold medal that tarnishes and fades. You’re after one that’s gold eternally. I don’t know about you but I’m running hard for the finish line. I’m giving it everything I’ve got. No sloppy living for me! I’m staying alert and in top condition” [1 Corinthians 9:24-27, The Message].

We can all enter the Christian race but the qualifying heat is when we are born again by accepting what Jesus did for us on the cross.

And after starting, we continue to run well to the finish line and then to hear, “Well done, good and faithful servant! Enter into the joy of your Lord” [Matthew 25:21].

Rodney Martin