Who doesn’t like the Olympics? Most of us just finished watching the 2016 Summer Games from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. This year, 10,500 athletes represented 207 countries, many as small as the state of Ohio.
But for me, it wasn’t about the fastest time across the finish line or the most agile gymnist. It was about the back-stories. It was about the Human Spirit.
In a qualifying race for the Women’s 5,000 meter, a runner from the U.S. (Abbey D’Agostino) clipped the heel of New Zealand’s Nikki Hamblin. Both runners fell to the ground. Instead of being disappointed that they were now out of the race, they helped each other up and crossed the final line dead last.
D’Agostino, who is a Christian, said that she felt God had prepared her for this moment. “Although my actions were instinctual at that moment, the only way I can and have rationalized it is that God prepared my heart to respond that way.” “This whole time here, he’s made clear to me that my experience in Rio was going to be about more than my race performance – and as soon as Nikki got up I knew that was it. I know there’s often criticism of athletes praying before a competition, or thanking God for their victory. I like to think this is why we should pray before a sporting event. Not that God will favor us with victory, but that we will be aware of His presence and have the Grace do what He would have us do,” she said.
In the Women’s 400 meter race, U.S. athlete Allyson Felix was favored to win. She was almost across the finish line when a Bahamian sprinter dove (literally) forward and officially crossed the line first. Felix came in second by 0.07 seconds. When asked what she thought of the event, she said that she ran her best race and “let her light shine through”. Did she ever! She was speaking not only of her abilities, but of “taking the high road” and not speaking negatively about a situation that could easily have been ugly.
So many people were crazy about watching the Women’s Beach Volleyball and were glued to the matches that included Kerri Walsh Jennings and April Rose from the U.S. After winning each competition so far, Kerri and April lost a semi-final round to the Brazilian team. Kerri noted that “tonight they rose to the occasion. I certainly did not.” When interviewed the next morning on the Today show, she said “I am a blessed woman. What happened makes me no less blessed. It makes me more determined.” Walsh Jennings and Ross went on to win the Bronze medal for the United States.
Simone Biles, the darling of the Gymnastics Competition, was raised by her grandparents when her mother was not able to parent. Rather than being discouraged with her personal situation, she followed her dreams and eventually won four gold medals and one bronze medal at the Rio Olympics. Even though her routines were practically flawless, she lost her footing on the balance beam. Even then, she won a Bronze medal because she didn’t give up when things went wrong.
We can learn so much about a positive Human Spirit from these athletes. May God continue to bless them.