Stories keep coming out of the Olympics in Rio, stories that keep some of us up later than usual, sometimes falling asleep in front of the TV! There are images that stay with us. Like Michael Phelps winning the anchor leg of the team relay by some 3 seconds to give the US team gold.....like Katie Ladecky, so far out in front of the competition in her 800m freestyle that only she showed in the camera shot.....like England’s Justin Rose making a fantastic pitch shot to 2’ from the hole to win the Olympic golf completion over Sweden’s Henrik Stenson on the final hole as golf returned to the Olympics after 104 years.....like the US women’s gymnastics team, so dominant, winning gold after gold and having so much fun in the process!
And then there are those who didn’t win medals.....
Lisa and Ann Hahner of Germany are twins who train together and competed in the women’s marathon. Neither was in top form, both were well off their best times, when they found themselves side by side with 300m left. They joined hands and crossed the finish line together, 81st and 82nd. Not everyone approved, including German officials. Well, I approve. There’s more to the Olympics than who comes in first, and at that point, far from the winning time, the two sisters exemplified something of the best of Olympic spirit. Those premier athletes who make it to the Olympics are all “winners,” even when they come in 81st and 82nd. There is something even more important about participating, about the love of one’s sport, about sportsmanship.
Perhaps even more inspiring than the Hahners was what happened in the women’s 5000 meter track qualifying event. With about 2000 meters to go, US runner Abbey D’Agostino clipped New Zealand’s Nikki Hamblin and both went down. As Hamblin was trying to gather herself—she had fallen hard on her right shoulder and appeared to be crying--she felt a hand on her shoulder and heard a voice say, “Get up. We have to finish this.” It was D’Agostino, refusing to pursue the others, instead helping her fellow competitor up.
As it turned out, D’Agostino had injured her ankle and needed more help than Hamblin, but neither quit and both crossed the finish line. In a most interesting gesture, officials determined that both Hamblin and D’Angostino, as well as Austria’s Jennifer Wenth who was also involved in the collision, would have places in Friday’s final. “That girl is the Olympic spirit right there,” Hamblin said of D’Agostino.
We cheer and want our athletes to win medals. That’s ok. However, there is something more important than medals, and some people don’t get that....but some do. I’m thankful for those who do, who understand that the Olympic spirit is about bringing together people from the world over to compete in peace, hopefully to foster peace and understanding. The Olympic spirit is also about competing, about doing one’s best, about finishing the race even when last, then about shaking hands and congratulating one another and going back home to hopefully share stories of other athletes from other places. The Olympic spirit may be about more, but it is at least about these things.
We all would do well to learn from the Hahner sisters and Abbey D’Agostino and Nikki Hamblin the lessons they apparently understood, that sometimes we need to stop and help one another along, to travel the journey together, to stop trying to defeat each other and begin working together.
This Sunday is our annual Youth Sunday. There will be two services—an 8:40 service in the gym with the typical Awakening service praise band music, and an 11:00 service with organ and traditional hymns. Youth will lead worship and share from their many meaningful experiences of the year. Be sure to come and see how God is at work among our youth and offer them your support.
See you Sunday,