RUN WITH DETERMINATION.
Scripture: HEBREWS 12:1-2
David Rudisha’s 800m final is a stand out London 2012 Olympics Games performance, says Sebastian Coe. Lord Sebastian Coe has hailed David Rudisha’s world-record performance to dominate and triumph in the 800m at the London Olympics as the best and most impressive 800m he has ever seen.
Coe, the London Committee Olympic Games chairman and former world record holder in the 800m, claimed Rudisha’s 1min 40.91sec two-lap demolition was such an extraordinary piece of racing it would be the stand-out performance of the Olympic Games.
“To basically express such physical and mental confidence that you take an 800m out in an Olympic final from gun to tape, was well … I am probably biased but when we look across every sporting event in these Games, that will be the stand-out performance of these Olympics.”
Coe’s unbridled support of Rudisha is understandable given that he had held the world record of 1min 41.73sec for 16 years and appreciates the supreme discipline, timing and drive needed to run unpaced for the entire race.
Rudisha said he knew it would take something special to get the world record at the Games, expecting to stand a chance of going under 1-41.00. He has also set a goal of running under 1-40.00 within the next few years.
As a young Athlete, and a member of the Box Hill Amateur Athletic Club I held school and State junior 800m titles. Hence I always carefully watch the Olympic middle distance races eagerly.
Some time ago I was talking to Ralph Doubell, the President of NSW Athletics, and the Australian 800m record holder for the past 44 years. When he went as a young teenager to the Melbourne Olympics in 1956, he decided to become an Olympian. He started training for the half-mile with five years to go to the Olympics. He determined to become the fastest man over half a mile.
In the 1968 Olympics, everyone was concerned with the impact of the high altitude, for Mexico City was 2500 metres above sea level. The lack of oxygen to the lungs would hamper track athletes except some of the Africans from Kenya and Ethiopia who lived and trained at high altitude.
It was the Africans who passed the world record holder Ron Clarke as he collapsed from lack of oxygen just near the finish of his 5000¬m. It was two hours be¬fore Ron recovered con¬sciousness and two days before he could speak. They did not know it then, but he had also ruptured his heart.
At the start of the 800m heat Ralph Doubell was tripped and nearly fell but won in 1’47”. In the semi-final he won in 1’45”. The final brought him side by side with the champion Africans. The mental pressure of an Olympic final was immense. The next two minutes would climax seven years training. The starter’s gun fired twice recalling them. Someone had broken. It wasn’t Ralph. But the starter walked to him and said if he broke again he would be disqualified. It was wrong. Unjust! Unfair! It wasn’t him. It was the runner next to him. Would he argue with the Spanish-speaking starter? Raise a protest? The debate raged in his mind. What he had to do was compose himself, focus, concentrate, put that behind him, and start a fraction later than the others.
On the re-start, he was last. He gradually moved to sixth place. At the bell he was seven metres behind the Kenyan favourite. He drew up to share the lead with 200 metres to go. To pass him now was too early. He waited until 80 metres to go and then went with heaving lungs hurting. For thirty metres they were stride for stride, the stadium erupting into cheering. He was screaming to himself “I can win! I can win!” The Kenyan faltered and Ralph stormed home in 1’44”.
Olympic Gold! A world record. An Olympic record. An Australian record. He was only the third Australian track ath¬lete in history to win gold. That was forty-four years ago. The record still stands. No Australian has ever run faster. I looked at Ralph. It was his determination over altitude and attitude that won.
That is also true for Christians. All salvation is of trusting belief, and our behaviour must express our faith according to the Scriptures. We need a balance between belief and behaviour. We need both Word and Deed. By God’s grace we are saved by faith for obedience.
Yet some do not like to hear about success. They repeat trite sayings like “God does not call us to be successful, but to be faithful.” That fails to answer the issue: “Is God honoured when his people are failures, wasting His gifts and squandering His resources?”
Jesus praised successful people in His Parable of the Talents (Matt 25). There are 200 references to succeeding and success in scripture encourage us to succeed. The theme throughout the cycle of stories of Joseph in Genesis, repeated each time the hero is hurt is: (39:23) “but the LORD was with Joseph and gave him success in whatever he did.”
When Israel entered the land of Canaan, Joshua said 1:7-8 “Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the law my servant Moses gave you. Do not let this Book of the Law depart from your mouth; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful.”
When King Uzziah ruled, Zechariah instructed him 2 Chronicles 26:5 and the result? “As long as he sought the LORD, God gave him success.” Nehemiah a great hero, prayed 1:11 “O Lord, Give your servant success today.” David prayed Ps 118:25 “O LORD, save us; O LORD, grant us success.”
Being successful does not mean behaving badly, equating blessing with money, success with getting away with it. Success is growth in excellence and virtue, in courage, generosity, patience, trust and love. The dynamics of success can be developed. There is no success without them. What are they?
Attempting is the beginning of all success. The successful person risks failure in order to succeed. The unsuccessful person is dominated by fear instead of faith, by inaction instead of action. Like the man Jesus spoke about who went and hid the one talent he had been given out of fear, they achieve nothing, lose the talent they were given and deserve their censure. For a failure uses up as much energy in failing as a successful person uses in winning.
Successful people not only attempt to accomplish their goals, but believe they can. In 1954 a young Australian swimmer Dawn Frazer was returning from the Cardiff, Empire Games. She had overcome many handicaps to compete. Dawn Frazer was the youngest of eight children of a very poor family in Balmain. She suffered severe asthma. She left school at 13 to work in a dress factory. On the way home from Cardiff where she was beaten, she read a sentence that changed her life: “What the mind can conceive and the heart believe, the will can achieve.”
The result? Dawn believed she could set a Australian record and win gold at the Olympics. She believed it intensely. She won Olympic gold in 1956 in the 100m freestyle, and also gold in 1960 in Rome and in 1964 in Tokyo. She is the only woman to have ever won three gold medals in the same event at three Olympics.
Dawn Frazer was the first woman to break one minute for the 100 metres. She held that world record for an incredible 16 years. She held an amazing 39 world records. Dawn Frazer is a champion who is also a great success because she believed she could do it. Jesus said “If you believe all things are possible.” Mk 9:23
Once you attempt believing, you have to commit yourself to your goals. Commitment is the third dynamic in success. Commitment is one of the greatest dynamics that leads to success in every field of endeavour. At Mexico City, where Ralph Doubell set his world record, the Marathon was also under question. The 7,700’ altitude was playing havoc with all the middle distance and long distance runners. Only the Kenyans, who won most of the races, and who lived and trained at high altitude were comfortable.
During the Marathon many athletes dropped with exhaustion. The runner from Tanzania, John Stephen Akhwari was in trouble. His lungs felt like bursting. The veins in his legs swelled up and one burst. Blood poured down his leg. The parmedics bandaged his legs and with blood-soaked bandages covering his legs he continued.
He arrived in the stadium, two hours after the Kenyans. One reporter asked him: “Why did you continue when you were in so much pain, and had shed so much blood to the end?” His reply was simple: “My country did not send me to start the race. They sent me to finish it!”
That is commitment.
Jesus “set his face steadfastly towards Jerusalem.” Lk 9:51 Jesus was a man of great purpose. “I have come to save the lost.” Lk19:10 The Apostle Paul was likewise determined. 1 Cor 2:2 “I determined to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified.”
Paul summed up his whole life of self discipline and vigorous effort by using an illustration from successful athletes. 1 Cor 9:24-27 “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air. No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.”
Enthusiasm is one of the greatest dynamics that leads to success in every field of endeavour. It is enthusiasm for your endeavour that helps overcome selfishness and prejudice. Consider the London 2012 Olympics. The Australian journalist, Kathryn Wickes asks What was the most important thing that happened at the Olympics? She suggests: Usain Bolt’s triple double? Michael Phelps’s elevation to legend? Anna Meares being crowned track sprint queen? They were all memorable performances but none was as important as something Grenada’s Kirani James did.
Not because he won the 400 metres. Not because he won his country’s first ever Olympic medal. Not because he is just 19 years old. And not even because he is a good sport who shook every competitor’s hand before celebrating his win.
It was something James did at the end of his semi-final that has defined him as a special human being. He stood and waited for the last man to cross the line. He asked to swap name bibs with him. That last man was Oscar Pistorius. The Blade Runner. The fastest man with no legs.
As the mother of a child with a disability, you want nothing more than for him to be accepted by his peers; to just get on with his life free of patronising words and condescending glares.
Sure, after a bit of a fight, Pistorius was accepted into the Olympics. Critics who fear his leg-swing speed gives him an advantage forget he has no ankles with which to spring from the blocks. But simply being there wasn’t acceptance for Pistorius. It was just qualification.
It was the unspoken words of James’s gesture – ‘’You are my equal’’ – that said so much. Acceptance. That the bloke last across the line had done something just as profound as James. ‘’I just see him as another athlete, another competitor,’’ James said after his semi-final. ‘’What’s more important is that I see him as another person. He’s someone I admire and respect.’’
And while Pistorius has and will continue to inspire, it was the actions of James that filled the parents of kids with disabilities with the hope that one day others can see them as equals.
The Games reveal to us those qualities of determination and sportsmanship that all Christians should exemplify and which the Apostle Paul praised.