The next two weeks will be full of joy, excitement, disappointments, heartaches, and pride for our athletes as they compete for the United States in the 2016 Rio Olympics. Potentially world records will be shattered, underdogs will pull off an upset, and some participants will go home with medals after sacrificing much time and effort over the years. For a few brief moments, we will all be on the same page as we cheer, “GO USA!”
Derek Redmond, the son of West Indian immigrants, gives a glimpse into the essence of the human spirit for an Olympic athlete. Redmond is a retired British athlete who won gold medals in the 4x400 meters relay at the European Championships, World Championships and Commonwealth games. In the 1988 Olympics in Seoul, Derek had to pull out of the opening round of the 400 meters race 90 seconds before his heat, due to an injury to his Achilles tendon. He endured eight surgeries to repair the injuries.
With renewed health, Redmond was able to qualify for and compete in the 1992 Summer Olympics in Barcelona. Just like other races, his father, Jim Redmond, accompanied him to the event and cheered him on from the stands. Before the competition they had talked about the importance of ignoring the past disappointments, heartaches, and injuries and to concentrate on finishing the race no matter what.
Derek posted the fastest time in the first round and also won his quarter-final. In the semi-final heat, Redmond hit his stride about the 250 meter mark and took the lead. With 175 meters to go to the Finish Line, Derek heard a pop and realized his right hamstring had torn. He hobbled, stopped, and then collapsed onto the track in writhing pain. As the stretcher bearers approached, Redmond got up, waved them off, and began to hop to the Finish Line. At the same time, Jim Redmond ran down the bleachers, hopped onto the field, and joined his son on the track. At the final curve, he wrapped his arm around his son’s waist to give him support. “I’m here, son. We’ll finish together.” With a stadium full of people cheering them on, a sobbing son put his arms around his father’s shoulders so he could complete the race. A few feet before the Finish Line, Jim released his son so he could complete the heat on his own two feet.
Sometimes during the Olympics and life, gold medal moments happen at places other than on the medal stand. I’m grateful for a Heavenly Father, a great crowd of witnesses, family, and friends who are here to cheer us on and encourage us in this race called life. May we keep the goal in mind, our focus on Jesus, never grow weary or lose heart, and finish strong.
Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.
Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.
Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.