I’m not a big fan of the Winter Olympics. I do respect the athletes’ skill. I’m also intrigued with this so-called sport:
But I like this classic story from the 2002 games. Australian skater Steven Bradbury had toiled without success since 1994. Then in 2002 Bradbury made it to the semi-final of the 1000-meter short track, where he followed in last place until the other competitors crashed, enabling him to qualify for the final.
In the final, he again remained well behind until the last lap, when something extraordinary happened:
That’s how Australia won its first gold medal in the Winter Olympics. Most thought it was a funny outcome, and a few suggested it was undeserved. Bradbury was circumspect: “I don’t think I’ll take the medal as the minute-and-a-half of the race I actually won. I’ll take it as the last decade of the hard slog I put in.”
He really did slog it out. Bradbury had lost four litres of blood when another skater sliced through his thigh in 1998. In 2000 he broke his neck in a collision while training. After his victory, the media dubbed him “the last man standing” — he persevered to the end.
This story inspires me because it reminds me of the Gospel, in three ways:
- Bradbury’s win felt like a reward for his long struggle. In contrast, we have never deserved to win God’s favour. Our salvation is not a reward for our efforts, “so that no one may boast.” * But God has graciously placed us on the gold medal platform, giving us victory over sin and death.
- If you win entrance into heaven, this is not by chance or luck. God actually “chose us in him before the foundation of the world” * He always intended for you to win!
- Like Bradbury, we must also strive and suffer, but for different ends. We strive for holiness and suffer for righteousness’ sake. It’s a hard slog to live by faith — but the victory is worth it:
“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.” *
* Ephesians 2:8, I Corinthians 9:25