Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Spirit of a Champion

 The 2014 Winter Olympics wrapped up the other night. To be honest, my family only watched the events sporadically. It depended on what else was on or what we were doing. As it said in the old intro for “ABC’s Wide World of Sports” we witnessed American athletes experiencing both “the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat.” Honestly, I could really take it or leave it regarding most of the Olympics. I was very glad to see something remarkable on the evening of February 10th, though.

We were simply waiting for the news to come on. The last event of the night was men’s 500 meter speed skating. The Dutch team was absolutely dominating. On the next to last run, two skaters from the Netherlands (twin brothers Michel and Ronald Mulder) had secured both the silver and bronze medal. The announcers were talking about a sweep of the medal podium. Sure enough, another Dutch skater, Jan Smeekens, took the gold on the last race. The camera panned over to silver medalist Michel who simply lost his mind cheering for his teammate and his country. He was more overcome by emotion than the man who had just beaten him by a few thousandths of a second! The important part came as a look of confusion swept across Michel’s face. He was looking at the screen showing the final race times. The announcers indicated that the judges were making an adjustment for some reason and the crowd became hushed. After making the time correction, the ruling was that Smeekens had actually placed second and Michel was now in first place.

His reaction is what inspired me to write this article.

On his face, there was confusion, then disbelief, and finally a look of almost sheepish embarrassment. For a moment, Michel seemed somewhat disappointed that he had won. He covered his face with his hands and slid them down to his chin as realization washed over him. Then he ran over and hugged his training partner who leaned over the railing. In that momentary reaction, Michel Mulder showed the heart of a true champion. He cheered harder for his team and country when he had the silver than when he won the gold. Mulder felt a flash of sadness for his teammate’s failure before he allowed himself to rejoice at his own victory. In that brief glimpse, Mulder displayed humility, selflessness, and pure joy at another’s success.

This is a perfect example of the love represented in the Bible by the Greek word “agape.” It is a love which seeks the best interest of another despite the personal cost. It was the kind of love God had for mankind when He sent His Son Jesus to the earth to become a sacrifice for our sin. John 3:16 tells us, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (NKJV). Never forget how much you are loved.

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