Since the advent of modern Olympics in 1896, almost every four years since then, many countries throughout the world send athletes to compete in the summer and winter Olympic games. It is supposed to be a time when conflicts throughout the world cease, allowing men and women to compete in their chosen sport, 39 different events this year, positioned in multiple venues throughout the region around Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
Have you been watching the Olympic Games this past week? Only the most dedicated fans will stay up till midnight watching the televised coverage unless you record and watch it the next day. Each athlete has their story, how they became involved in their sport, whether swimming, equestrian, gymnastics, running, weight lifting, and so many more.
Usain Bolt from Jamaica is still the fastest sprinter in the 100 meters. He is a showman who knows how to entertain the spectators and fans. He has run for gold in three Olympic Games, maybe this is his last one. Michael Phelps has earned the most medals (23) for an Olympic athlete since he qualified for the 2008 summer games. Katie Ledecky is a remarkable swimmer though it sounds like she will not continue after entering Stanford this fall.
Runner, Wayde van Niekerk made history when he broke the world record in the 400m Olympics final in lane number eight at Rio, and he has one person in particular to thank – his 74-year-old coach Anna Botha. The South African athlete has been training with Anna for the last four years, and has seen his times improve massively as a result. “She’s really kept me very disciplined on the goal and where I need to be,” Wayde told Fox News following his win. “I’m really grateful I can go on the track and say my coach has pushed me to reach every level and believe anything is possible.”
I’m sure each of you has your favorite Olympic sporting event and your favorite athletes that you root for in their specific event(s). Each athlete is extremely dedicated, focused on their training and competition goals, their sights set on an Olympic medal. My favorite competition is actually the Paralympic Games which follow the summer games. Here young and old athletes participate as much for the joy of the sport as winning any kind of medal.
Who inspires us to greatness? Saint Paul wrote “Do you not know that the runners in the stadium all run in the race, but only one wins the prize? Run so as to win…They do it to win a perishable crown, but we an imperishable one…” We are not Olympic athletes, but we are reaching for the prize, the hope and promise of eternal life. How do we run our race? How do we strive for justice in our lives? How does Jesus spur us onto victory? Let us do all we can for the glory of God, reveling in God’s mercy for us, the mercy we can show and demonstrate to one another. The Olympic Games come around every two years, winter and summer, but we run the ‘race’ every day of our lives. Let us be imitators of Christ and inspire others?
Father Larry Hendel, Pastor