Soon the golf world gathers at Royal Troon GC for the annual British Open. In the Euros, Scotland won German hearts with their ‘No Scotland, No Party’ high spirited shenanigans, as our team snatched defeat from the feet of victory. Andy Murray has tearfully bowed out of Wimbledon. Soon Killie will join other teams in Europe, taking on Cercle Brugges of Belgium. What a sporting summer! And I haven’t even mentioned Paris Olympics (26th July – 11th August) nor Mark Cavendish’s astonishing 35th stage win in the Tour De France (TdF), coming back from depression, put-downs, and carnage of  a broken collar bone! Aged 39, Mark’s character, training, determination, and skill, with Astana Qazaqstan teamwork, have come good to set Mark on a podium of his own above Eddy Merckx as the TdF record holder and all-time great!

But it’s not just in crossing the line first that victory comes. Remember how Derek Redmond, the GB 400m runner won hearts in Barcelona’s Olympics in 1992. His leg gave up and he hobbled home with the aid of his father, with everyone on their feet applauding his courage and vulnerability, and dad’s cutting through security and referees to be alongside his son in agony. Ivan Fernandez Anya was also such a winner. He sacrificed winning to allow someone else to cross the line first, when Kenyan ‘Abel Mutai’ slowed down thinking he had already won the race. Anya could have raced past him but stopped to let Mutai see his folly and claim his deserved cross-country victory. What wonderful sportsmanship!

When Scotsman Alan Wells won the 100m Olympics in 1980, he dedicated his win to Eric Liddell, his fellow-Scotsman, who won the 400m instead of the 100m at the Paris Olympics. Beautifully illustrated in Putnam’s film ‘Chariots of Fire’ Liddell is shown to hold more important values than winning races. Though a favourite to beat Abrams in the 100m, Liddell preferred to preach at the Scots Kirk in Paris and ‘keep the Sabbath day special’. He re-trained for the 400m. Everyone expected Eric to fade in the 3rd and 4th hundred metres, instead he managed to retain his speed, win gold and the hearts of millions! In honouring God Liddell combined training, skill, faith, adrenaline, and dependency upon God to secure an astonishing victory and 400m world record.

Liddell, who also played 8 times for Scottish rugby, went on to serve God by teaching children in China. During WW2 Liddell sent his family home but remained to teach and care for his pupils and their families. The invading Japanese enclosed Liddell and Co. in a camp, where he continued to teach and even organise Sunday games for the kids when he realised that it would bless and benefit them more. He died in China aged 43 and was buried in an unmarked grave, but more recently a 7ft rose granite memorial stone from Mull was erected (1991) and a statue of Eric Liddell running in full flight was raised in memory of a great athlete and human being (2015).

The Communist Chinese authorities made it clear that nothing overtly religious should be on these memorials but some scripture, in Chinese & English, found its way onto the memorial stone, “They shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.” (Isaiah 40:31) Hebrews 12:1-3 shows well Liddell’s source of motivation, “Inspired by the many gone before us, let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer & perfector of our faith, who for the joy set before him suffered the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at God’s right hand … that will shoot adrenaline into your souls!”

Thanks to The Eric Liddell Community for photos, info’, & encouragement.